A Uyghur chauffeur has died while detained in an internment camp in Aksu (in Chinese, Akesu) city, in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), according to local officials and a Uyghur exile group.
In July last year, Qaharjan Qawul, 41, was detained in one of the XUAR’s internment camps, where experts say up to 1.5 million people accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas have been held since April 2017, according to a recent report by the International Uyghur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation (IUHRDF).
The report said that Qawul was arrested after authorities learned that more than a decade ago he had visited his mother and sister in Turkey—one of several countries Uyghurs are blacklisted from traveling to by Chinese authorities due to a perceived risk of religious extremism.
IUHRDF cited an unnamed source it said was “familiar with the case” as saying that Qawul passed out, ostensibly while being tortured, during an interrogation session in November 2018 and died after being taken to a nearby hospital.
RFA’s Uyghur Service contacted various staff members at the Aksu city Justice Bureau who refused to answer questions about Qawul’s death.
However, a Uyghur officer at the Jin Shui Road Police Station, which oversees Qawul’s neighborhood, confirmed that the chauffeur had died “in hospital,” although he did not know which one, and that his body had been returned to his family for burial.
“He was linked to people involved in political activities,” said the officer, when asked why he had been detained.
The officer’s supervisor refused to say whether Qawul had died as the result of an interrogation.
An officer at the Bazaarliq Police Station in Aksu told RFA that Qawul “was arrested by the State Security Police,” but could not provide the names of any of the officer involved.
A staff member from the Kang Wei Household Committee said the chauffeur was “taken away after it was learned that he called ‘key’ [blacklisted] families.”
“Among the three families he called, two of them were blacklisted,” he said, adding that “their family members were also arrested because there was a problem with information on their phones.”