The wife and children of a Uyghur man living in Belgium are under house arrest in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), months after they were abducted from the Belgian Embassy in Beijing by Chinese authorities, according to the man.
Huriyet Abdulla, 43, had travelled to Beijing from the XUAR with her four children in late May seeking visas from the Belgian Embassy that would allow them to join her 51-year-old husband Ablimit Tursun in Brussels, where he was granted refugee status in late 2017 after his brother was sent to an internment camp, Tursun told RFA’s Uyghur Service in June.
On May 28, when staffers at the embassy informed her that the documents would take longer than expected to issue, she replied that she was too afraid to return to her hotel room in the city after police had visited them twice already to determine the purpose of their visit, and refused to leave the building, Tursun said.
Shortly after midnight on May 29, Chinese authorities entered the grounds of the embassy, forcibly removed Abdulla and her children to their hotel, where they spent the following night, and on May 31 confiscated their phones and drove them nearly 30 hours home to the XUAR capital Urumqi.
After 18 days without contact, Tursun briefly spoke with his wife, who told him that authorities had returned her phone and that she and the children were “safe at home” in Urumqi, although it was unclear what kind of situation they were in and whether police were in their house when the call was made.
Earlier this month, however, French media outlets and the Brussels-based Hurriyet Daily, cited Tursun as saying that his wife and four children—ages five to 17—are under house arrest and cannot travel anywhere without special permission.
He expressed frustration with Chinese authorities for refusing to issue passports for his wife and children, and thereby preventing them from reuniting with him in Belgium.
Speaking with RFA this week, Tursun said he was extremely concerned about the safety of his family, who he said are “under strict house arrest and surveillance” at their home in the XUAR capital.
“They are being watched all the time and are not allowed to leave the city,” he said.
He also told RFA that his wife is currently “under criminal investigation” for carrying “state secrets” after she brought his computer containing their family’s personal documents with her to Beijing in May.
“If there was anything sensitive, why would I ask her to carry it around,” Tursun asked.
“Their claims don’t make any sense. My wife was asked to sign a document [while she was detained] which stated that she took documents relating to state security to Beijing. My wife refused to sign it.”