A detainee in a video report documenting China’s mass incarceration of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) has been identified as a former cultural official from Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi) prefecture and father of two, according to a source.
In June, the BBC published a video in which a reporter is led on official tours of several internment camps, where authorities in the XUAR have held up to 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas since April 2017.
The reporter is shown Uyghurs singing and dancing, and “learning skills,” as part of a bid by authorities to promote Beijing’s narrative that the camps are actually “boarding schools” that provide vocational training and protect the country from terrorism.
Later, he speaks with former inmates who corroborate reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media outlets that those in the camps are detained against their will and subjected to political indoctrination, routinely face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers, and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities.
A former resident of the seat of Kashgar prefecture recently informed RFA that he had identified one of the detainees in the video—shown studying at a camp in the city known as No. 4 Middle School—as a classmate of his in elementary school named Akber Ebeydulla, who he said had been working as an official with Kashgar Department of Cultural Heritage.
The source, who lives in exile in Turkey and spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Ebeydulla was a university graduate and researcher of history who spoke Mandarin Chinese and English nearly flawlessly, and would have no need for “vocational training.”
Ebeydulla, who had received multiple awards for his work at both the prefectural and regional level, was detained because he had been too “proud” while explaining Uyghur cultural heritage to foreigners and was suspected of “harming the state,” the source said.
RFA contacted a staff member at the Kashgar Department of Cultural Heritage who confirmed that Ebeydulla worked there, but deferred questions to the prefectural government when asked whether he had been taken to an internment camp.
But a second staff member at the same office answered “no” when asked whether Ebeydulla had been released from internment.
RFA also contacted Kashgar’s Nangan Police Station, which has jurisdiction over the Kuyashnur Civil Servant Residential District where Ebeydulla lives with his wife and two children.
An officer at the station said that Ebeydulla had been “taken in the beginning of 2017,” but said he was unsure of why he was detained.
“He was suspected of offenses at work … [and] taken away from his home,” the officer said.