Authorities in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) have detained 24-year-old Uyghur Erpat Ablekrem—an aspiring professional footballer—in a “political re-education camp” after he maintained contact with family members who fled the country, according to his cousin.
Ablekrem, also known by his Chinese name Aierpati Abulaikeremu, was detained from his hometown of Ghulja (in Chinese, Yining) city, in the XUAR’s Ili Kazakh (Yili Hasake) Autonomous Prefecture in March last year and sent to a “political re-education camp” in the area, his cousin Muyesser Abdulehet told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
The young man, who had played goal keeper for a variety of teams both inside the XUAR and in China’s Shandong province, is believed to have been detained for maintaining contact with Abdulehet after she and her family fled Beijing’s repressive policies in the region and resettled in Turkey, she said.
“I received news that he had been taken to a re-education camp in March last year,” Abdulehet said, referring to the vast network of facilities where authorities have detained Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas throughout the XUAR since April 2017.
“I believe he is still in Ghulja in one of the regional re-education camps,” she added.