Authorities in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) detained for one month a Uyghur former official who resigned due to complications from an injury he sustained while fleeing an incident of unrest five years ago, according to sources.
On July 28, 2014, Uyghur residents of Elishku township, in Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi) prefecture’s Yarkand (Shache) county, protested the detention of a dozen Uyghur women for praying overnight at a local mosque and the subsequent indiscriminate use of force and extra-judicial killings by Chinese security forces in several townships.
Authorities fired on the protesters with live ammunition and at least 96 people were killed in the ensuing violence, according to Chinese state media, though Uyghur exile groups have said as many as 2,000 may have died. A crackdown by police in the county following the incident led to mass jailings of work-age Uyghur males.
At least two officials—Dongbagh township chairman Gholam Tohti and the township’s ruling Chinese Communist Party Disciplinary Committee secretary Abdugheni Turdi—were being held hostage by protesters when they were gunned down by the security forces, their widows have claimed.
Ablimit Omer, the ruling Chinese Communist Party secretary of Elishku’s No. 26 village, had been sent to the protest by Tohti to persuade those involved to turn themselves over to police, but when authorities opened fire, he fled through nearby fields and broke his leg after falling into a ditch, according to a Uyghur source living in exile in Turkey.
Soon after the incident, the source told RFA’s Uyghur Service on condition of anonymity, Omer asked to leave his position due to complications from his injury and his superiors accepted his resignation.
However, three years later, Omer’s decision to quit was labeled an “act against the government,” and he was detained in one of a network of 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.
A Uyghur source from Yarkand, who also declined to be named, told RFA that Omer was held at the internment camp for one month, but released after authorities listened to a voicemail message he had received from Dongbagh township chairman Gholam Tohti asking him to assist with handling the protest, prior to Tohti’s death.
The Turkey-based source said that everyone who assisted the wounded in the aftermath of the unrest had been arrested and given prison sentences, including several people who were held for six months before being exonerated, and that in the last three years, anyone who resigned from a government position in Yarkand after the incident had been sent to internment camps for “religious extremism.”
While two police officers in Yarkand told RFA that they had no knowledge of Omer, a third confirmed that the village party secretary “was at the scene of the July 28 incident, and we heard that he was injured.”
When asked when Omer was taken to an internment camp, a fourth officer told RFA it had happened “in early 2017.”
The officer said that the reason Omer was detained was because “he used to work as a village secretary, but resigned after he broke his leg.”
The fourth officer was unable to confirm whether Omer’s injury had occurred while fleeing the shooting, or whether he was nearby when Tohti was killed.