RFA: Kazakh and Uyghur Detainees of Xinjiang ‘Re-education Camps’ Must ‘Eat Pork or Face Punishment’


Kazakh and Uyghur held in political “re-education camps” in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) are being forced to consume pork, despite the dietary restrictions of their Muslim faith, in a bid by authorities to assimilate them into Chinese culture, according to three former detainees.

Since April 2017, authorities in the XUAR have held an estimated 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas in the camps, which China claims are an effective tool to protect the country from terrorism and provide vocational training.

Reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media organizations, however, has shown 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.

Gulzire Awulqanqizi, an ethnic Kazakh Muslim who was held at the Dongmehle Re-education Camp in Ili Kazakh (in Chinese, Yili Hasake) Autonomous Prefecture’s Ghulja (Yining) city from July 2017 to October 2018, recently told RFA in an interview that detainees are told they must eat pork, or face punishment.

Awulqanqizi said she and other detainees were initially given pork at a meal without their knowledge.

“They simply said it was a ‘friendly feast,’ but we could tell there was pork, which we can’t stand to eat,” she said.

Later, Awulqanqizi said, authorities at the camp would serve pork for dinner more regularly, but only after stressing the importance of creating “unity among nationalities” and getting along with members of the Han Chinese majority when detainees are released.

Awulqanqizi told RFA that she vomited after eating pork the first time.

But instead of helping her, camp officials told Awulqanqizi that her distaste for pork was all in her head and threatened to send her to a different camp if she continued to get sick from eating it.

Awulqanqizi forced herself to eat pork whenever it was served until she left the camp last year.

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RFA: US Senate Panel Passes Bill to Address China Uyghur Crackdown, Camps

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a bill on Wednesday that seeks accountability for China’s harsh crackdown on Muslim Uyghurs that has imposed blanket surveillance and landed some 1.5 million residents of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in internment camps.

The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which requires endorsement by the full U.S. Senate and ratification by the House of Representatives, would appoint a special State Department coordinator on Xinjiang and require regular reports on the camps, the surveillance network and the security threats posed by the crackdown.

Up to 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas have been held since April 2017. Reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media outlets has shown that those in the camps routinely face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers, and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions.

“It is long overdue to hold Chinese government and Communist Party officials accountable for systemic and egregious human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang,” said Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who co-sponsored the legislation, with Democrat Bob Menendez.

“Today we are all Uyghurs, and China’s horrific and systematic abuse of its Uyghur minority is an affront to all people who value the principles of universal human rights, and Beijing’s imposition of systemic mass surveillance in Xinjiang should send a chill down the spine of every person who values humanity, human life, and ethnic, religious and cultural freedom,” Menendez said.

Menendez called the bipartisan legislation “an important stand today against President Xi (Jinping) and the Chinese Communist Party’s vision of a dystopian authoritarian future for their own people and for the planet.”

The bill provides a catalog of documented mistreatment of Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims that precedes the detention camps.

“In recent decades, central and regional Chinese government policies have systematically discriminated against Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and other Muslims in Xinjiang by denying them a range of civil and political rights, including the freedoms of expression, religion, movement, and a fair trial, among others,” says the legislation.

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RFA: Xinjiang Re-education Camp Detainees Appointed ‘Crying Time’ Every Two Weeks


Detainees in the vast network of political “re-education camps” in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) are given an hour or so to “cry” every two weeks, according to a young ethnic Kazakh woman who was held at one of the facilities.

Since April 2017, authorities in the XUAR have held an estimated 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas in the camps, which China claims are an effective tool to protect the country from terrorism and provide vocational training.

Reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media organizations, however, has shown 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.

Guzire Awulqanqizi, a Kazakh woman who was held at the Dongmehle Re-education Camp in Ili Kazakh (in Chinese, Yili Hasake) Autonomous Prefecture’s Ghulja (Yining) city from July 2017 to October 2018, recently told RFA in an interview that detainees dealing with the stress of 14-hour days of political study are given a “crying session” every two weeks.

“They say, ‘Now you can cry,’ but if we cry at other times when we feel the need, they criticize and threaten us, saying they will move us to a different camp,” said Awulqanqizi, who now lives in exile in Almaty, in neighboring Kazakhstan.

“When we feel sad and cry, they say, ‘You cannot cry now—you can only cry when it is your allotted crying hour.’ At the crying hour, they shout at us, ‘Now you cry!’”

According to Awulqanqizi, authorities in the camps have established a crying hour because “they know we were suffering,” but even when detainees are permitted to express their emotions, “we have to cry quietly” while monitored by camp officials.

“They stayed and watched us,” she said, adding that each classroom was observed by five teachers and two police officers.

Classroom monitors would threaten detainees with electric batons and verbally abuse them if they cried outside of permitted crying times.

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UHRP: Resisting Chinese Linguistic Imperialism: Abduweli Ayup and the Movement for Uyghur Mother Tongue-Based Education

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) has published a new special report: Resisting Chinese Linguistic Imperialism: Abduweli Ayup and the Movement for Uyghur Mother Tongue-Based Education. The report focuses on the Chinese government’s deliberate campaign to marginalize the Uyghur language in the Uyghur homeland. Motivated by a combination of geopolitical ambition and policies to eradicate the ethnic identity of the Uyghur people, the Chinese authorities are removing the relevance of Uyghur from the education system and public life.

The report includes a section on the struggles of Uyghur scholar and linguist Abduweli Ayup to protect the Uyghur language from state erasure through grassroots initiatives. The account of Abduweli’s life, including his unjust imprisonment for his efforts, illustrate the extent to which Chinese officials will go to ensure a Uyghur-led definition of identity and language is unable to flourish in the Uyghur homeland. Upon publication of the report, Abdulweli Ayup said in a statement:

This special report will be of interest to academics, human rights activists, and ethnic minority communities of East Turkestan, who are concerned with language maintenance and resisting Chinese linguistic imperialism. By piecing together evidence from a variety of sources, UHRP has demonstrated how the CCP’s [Chinese Communist Party] campaign to achieve Mandarin language assimilation includes a shift from tolerance to the prohibition of minority languages indigenous to East Turkestan. This report also contains my authorized biography to date, where readers can learn about my experience in setting up schools that provided mother tongue-based multilingual education. Although scholars support this mode of education, which builds upon the linguistic repertoire and cultural knowledge of students, the CCP terminated my schools because they conflicted with the Chinese government’s imperative to eradicate markers of ethnic minority identity.

I hope that ethnic minority communities in East Turkestan actualize the recommendations made in this report, to form a strong family language policy, so that Uyghur and other non-Mandarin indigenous languages are maintained. The CCP is making every effort to erase our culture. This report serves as documentation of this effort and provides guidance on resisting the Chinese government’s attempt at linguicide.

Chinese officials have portrayed the Uyghur language as incompatible with modernity. Following a pattern of broader development policy that has promoted the adoption of Han civilization as central to modernization, China has moved to diminish the status of the Uyghur language in society.

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RFA: ‘At Least One Million People in the Camps Full Time’: Deputy Assistant Secretary Scott Busby

Scott Busby, deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the U.S. Department of State, recently spoke with RFA’s Uyghur Service about persecution under Chinese rule in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), where authorities have held an estimated 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas in a network of political “re-education camps” since April 2017.

During an interview with Mamatjan Juma at the State Department in Washington, Busby discussed inconsistencies in the way China has represented the camp system, what the U.S. has done to raise awareness of the situation in the XUAR, and why other countries have failed to speak out against or even defended China’s policies in the region. He also pledged continued U.S. support for the Uyghurs, saying that Washington will exert pressure on China for as long as people are being detained in the camps because of their ethnic background, and religious and cultural traditions.

RFA: What kind of concrete action has been taken to close [the camps] or release the detainees from the camps in China?

Busby: One of the things we’ve spent a lot of time on is trying to get the word out about what’s happening in Xinjiang. We have been sharing information with many other governments around the world, we’ve been doing public events talking about Xinjiang. We hosted—along with several other governments—a side event in Geneva, Switzerland on the margins of the U.N. Human Rights Council specifically devoted to the issue of the abuses taking place in Xinjiang … Secretary Pompeo, as you know, has met with several Uyghur individuals to hear about their experiences or the experience of their loved ones in the camps. So we have been focused, primarily to date, on getting the word out about the situation in Xinjiang, and I think the world now knows how horrible the situation is. There are other measures that we’re considering, but I can’t get into the details of the internal deliberations of the U.S. government at this point.

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A Letter from A Prison Guard in the Newly Built Concentration Camp in Dawanching

The original letter (in Chinese) was posted online by Erkin Azat on May 12, 2019 (link). The letter has been translated into English by the Torchlight Uyghur Group.

Concentration camp in Dabancheng (Dawanching)

My name is Berik, I am a prison guard in the newly built concentration camp located in Dawanching (Dabancheng in Chinese). I was a cameraman before, filming wedding ceremonies but my business started going down after 2016. Applying for a police associate position became popular starting from 2017 and my mother also encouraged me to apply as advertised salary sounded reasonable. Soon after becoming a police associate I regretted choosing this position. There were no holidays and our salaries were subjected to cut frequently. Sometimes the salaries were delayed for several months. Working under a 24-hour highly stressful environment brought me a number of health problems like sleep disorder.

 

During the 2nd half of 2018, I was transferred to the newly built concentration camp in Dawanching and I was assigned to work in the security camera control room since I had some previous experiences with cameras. I was responsible for night shift. Despite working in the control room there were numbers of security cameras monitoring our every single action. We were “not allowed to leave the position anytime, not allowed to sleep, and not allowed to move”.  We had to concentrate on screens and monitor every single situation. If we had any mistake because of our carelessness we would be punished. A light punishment would be deduction of one-month salary and heavier punishment would be to get “reeducated together”. So, we always felt like we were in prisons cells not in the control room.

The following is the daily routine for the prisoners:

  • 5:00                     Getting up and morning run in the field
  • 7:00                     Breakfast
  • 8:00 – 12:00          Chinese education class, Political study, Law study
  • 12:00 – 14:00        Lunch time and break
  • 14:00 – 18:00        Continuing study
  • 19:00                   Dinner
  • 20:00 – 22:00        Self study
  • 23:00                   Clean up the dormitory and go to bed

The security cameras could not cover every single corner and there could be blind spots. We gave warning about the blind spots to the prisoners and some prisoners would sneak into the blind spots to smoke. Cigarettes were smuggled into the camps and the prisoners would be severely punished if they were found smoking. At the beginning, the management of the concentration camp was very tight, but after a while people got used to it.

We have a “couple’s room” where prisoners and their spouses are allowed to meet on a regular basis to “do private things”. One day during the winter, a prisoner was locked into solitary for 24 hours after he met his wife in this room; he subsequently lost all his future privileges of meeting his wife again. Actually, surveillance camera in the couple’s room was recording everything: His wife was wearing two layers of woolen inner pants and she gave one to his husband to wear. The prisoner didn’t know the surveillance camera was recording and thought it was ok. Later my coworker responsible for the day shift received a bonus for finding out this “crime”.

One day, more than 3,000 high school girls, all of them are around the age of 18, were transferred to the Dawanching concentration camp, right after the camp’s expansion.  One of the girls who was standing in the first row, quietly said to me: “Brother, you can do anything to my body, as long as you can rescue me from here”. I couldn’t look into her eyes at that time, and her words echo almost every day in my ears ever since.

Sometimes officers would visit our monitoring room to “inspect” our work. In fact, they are choosing “girls”. They would ask us to zoom the camera in on girls’ faces, and even would half-jokingly ask me to choose the most beautiful one for him, which I euphemistically rejected at the time. After selecting the girl, they would let the subordinate staff to bring the girl to the “office” for a “talk”. The “office” actually is employee’s kitchen.  Because there is no camera there, and the “talk” generally is during the daytime, not at night, everyone knows what will happen to the girls. There are two tables in the kitchen, one table is for snacks and liquors, and the other one is for “doing things”. Most of the time, the officer would rape the selected girl alone. Sometimes, if he is high, he would let subordinates gang rape the girls after him. After they are done, the girl would be returned back to the cell. The girl wouldn’t say anything, but I could see her tears from the camera. In the cells, they are not allowed to cry, not allowed to express their emotions, and not allowed to talk.  Because of those restrictions, they can’t vent their emotions, so their mood can be extremely dreadful.

Our canteen tableware is made of plastic to prevent self-harm, but once a prisoner broke down emotionally, and after smashing the tableware, he tried to cut his abdomen with a sharp corner, but failed, and was sent to a mental hospital.

One time, two guys were caught fighting inside the cell. They knew there was a blind spot in the cell, but their arms were caught by the camera. Later they were punished by forcefully sitting on “the tiger chair”, prevented from food for 48 hours, and even had to pee on the chair.

In the Dawanching camp, young and middle-aged prisoners receive an injection every month, while the elderly only takes a single injection when they enter the concentration camp. The camp authorities say that it is to prevent cold or flu.

As guards, we are also required to memorize legal and political doctrines and go through regular assessments. It will be very dangerous if our results are unsatisfactory.

One day, I had some guests at my house. Maybe because our voice was a bit loud, an old Han Chinese man who lives downstairs called the police and threatened to send us all into camp for “learning”. Fortunately, I was also a “policeman”, and the police officers arrived also knew me.  As a result, we were able to persuade the old man and signed a letter of guarantee for him. If I were an ordinary person at that time, I would definitely have been sent to the concentration camp only for the reason of being “noisy.”

The Uyghurs’ Tragedies and the CCP’s Crimes against Humanity

Torchlight Uyghur Group

Contact us:

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   @torch_uyghur
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Uighur detainees listening to a “deradicalization” presentation at a reeducation camp, in a photo posted to the Xinjiang Judicial Administration’s WeChat account, Hotan Prefecture, Xinjiang, 2017

  • US: The United States said China has put well more than a million minority Muslims in “concentration camps” (Reuters, 3 May 2019).
  • Randall Schriver, who leads Asia policy at the U.S. Defense Department, said “The (Chinese) Communist Party is using the security forces for mass imprisonment of Chinese Muslims in concentration camps,” in a Pentagon briefing during a broader discussion about China’s military, estimating that the number of detained Muslims could be “closer to 3 million citizens.” (Reuters, 3 May 2019)
  • 500,000 children have been taken by force to children camps or so-called “orphanage centers.”
  • In 2017, the Chinese army flattened the 3 villages by killing all of their Uyghur residents, an estimated 10,000 Uyghurs, in Korla Prefecture of Xinjiang. The government did so to make space to build “A Free Trade Center” for Central Asia, Middle East and Europe.
  • The Chinese government has admitted that it has placed one million communists in Uyghur homes (China File, 24 Oct 2018)
  • The detainees are not guilty of anything, use overflowing toilets in overcrowded cells, live with food and sleep deprivation, receive forced injections and the most severe torture inside the camp. (CNN, 9 May 2019)
  • Sinicization or “changing ethnicity” of the Uyghurs is now underway in China. Top Chinese central government officials said, “We will turn the best of them into Hans, while repressing and destroying the bad.” Those who cannot learn fast enough or meet daily goals are deprived of food. The food itself is so bad. For three meals the detainees are given rice porridge, one ladle of it, and one piece of bread. They are also subject to sleep deprivation.” (CNN, 9 May 2019)
  • Most of the female detainees are young and unmarried, usually around age 20. “[The guards] take away girls from there and after some prolonged time they bring them back, sometimes in the middle of the night. When they bring them, any normal person can see that what kind of torture they have been through. When they come back, they turn into a different person. The guards do all kinds of torture to them and sexually abuse them. (CNN, 9 May 2019)
  • “Western governments, including the US, and rights groups have said the camps are nothing more than arbitrary detention centers,designed to eradicate Uyghur culture and Islamic practices from China’s westernmost province.” S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 1st used the term re-education camps to describe the sites and said Chinese activity was “reminiscent of the 1930s.” (Reuters, 3 May 2019)
  • “According to sources in Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the provinces of Shaanxi, Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Heilongjiang, and others have been assigned quotas of detainees to take. At present, sources have reported that Shaanxi Provincein central China was issued a quota of about 25,000 people. An estimated 500,000 Uyghur Muslims will be dispersed and detained throughout China.” (Bitter Winter, 17 Dec. 2018)
  • Uyghurs are dying even during the transfer process. Most of the Uyghurs dispersed to Han provinces are men. Detainees’ living conditions are difficult and traumatizing. Local prisoners are allowed to go outside every day for exercise and fresh air, but the Uyghurs are not. They are not allowed to communicate verbally or through gestures. Even the people in the surrounding areas of the prisons do not know that these prisons hold Uyghurs. If the Uyghur prisoners die, nobody outside knows about it. The detained are given only one meal per day. “Serious criminals” are kept inside special, square-shaped steel bar cages just over one meter tall. They are unable to stand or fully stretch and are restricted to eating and relieving themselves only inside the cage. One insider described that these Uyghurs “are left to perish on their own.” (Bitter Winter, 17 Dec. 2018 – 2 Apr. 2019)
  • Xi’s government is forcing some Uyghur detainees to sing: “Xi is the father of China, Xi is the father of the world.” China’s “Belt and Road” projects are actually debt trap and are aimed at soft colonization of the other parts of the world. Uyghurs’ today may become other peoples’ tomorrow
  • Please call your Congressperson & Senators now to pass S. 178 & H.R. 649

References:

[1] China putting minority Muslims in ‘concentration camps,’ U.S. says (May 3, 2019)

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-china-concentrationcamps/china-putting-minority-muslims-in-concentration-camps-us-says-idUSKCN1S925K

[2] Former Xinjiang teacher claims brainwashing and abuse inside mass detention centers (9 May 2019)

https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/09/asia/xinjiang-china-kazakhstan-detention-intl/index.html

[3] Uyghurs Secretly Moved to Hide Mass Detentions (17 Dec 2018)

https://bitterwinter.org/uyghurs-moved-to-hide-mass-detentions/

[4] Uyghur Dispersion and Detention – Worse Than We Thought (18 Dec 2018)

https://bitterwinter.org/uyghur-dispersion-and-detention-worse-than-we-thought/

[5] How to Hide Illegal Detentions? China Gets Creative (19 Dec 2018)

https://bitterwinter.org/illegal-detentions-china-gets-creative/

[6] New Details of Secret Transfer of Uyghurs (27 Dec 2018)

https://bitterwinter.org/?s=New+Details+of+Secret+Transfer+of+Uyghurs

 [7] Inside the Transfer of Xinjiang Muslims (2 Feb 2019)

https://bitterwinter.org/inside-the-transfer-of-xinjiang-muslims/

[8] Thousands of Uyghurs Detained in a Gansu Prison (2 April 2019)

https://bitterwinter.org/thousands-of-uyghurs-detained-in-a-gansu-prison/

[9] China’s Government Has Ordered a Million Citizens to Occupy Uighur Homes. Here’s What They Think They’re Doing

http://www.chinafile.com/reporting-opinion/postcard/million-citizens-occupy-uighur-homes-xinjiang

USA Today: I’ve fought China’s slow-motion genocide of Uighur Muslims. Now, my family are victims.

Rushan Abbas, Opinion contributor Published 5:00 a.m. ET May 9, 2019 | Updated 4:57 p.m. ET May 9, 2019

The world is finally waking up to the ongoing and terrifying violations of human rights against the Uighurs — a Muslim minority in Northwest China. My own family is victim to these violations. As both an American citizen and a Uighur, this disaster has ravaged my heart, and shaken me to my very core.

Last September, six days after I spoke about China’s human rights abuses at the Hudson Institute, Chinese police abducted my sister and aunt from their homes. My family members, who both live in Xinjiang but hundreds of miles apart, were abducted on the same day, as a tactic to silence me and stop my activism in the United States. The government has seized the family members of other Uighur Americans who speak out about their human rights violations — attempting to control and silence us in the United States, as they control and silence our families in China.

My Uighur American niece and I found out about the abductions through some of our remaining contacts in Xinjiang, but members of my family are not the only ones suffering.

China’s long history of repression

I grew up within the rich culture of the Uighurs, in a region occupied by Communist China known as Xinjiang (also known as East Turkestan). I witnessed the repression of the Cultural Revolution at a young age — my grandfather was jailed and my father was taken to a reeducation camp. As a student in Xinjiang University, I was one of the organizers in pro-democracy demonstrations in the mid- and late-1980s. When I came to America in 1989, I brought my ideals and experiences with me. Since then, I have consistently campaigned for the human rights of my people by dedicating much of my life to writing and advocating on their behalf.

In Xinjiang, our mosques and religious sites have been bulldozed by a government committed to eradicating our culture. Parents are banned from naming their children traditional Muslim names, and Muslim men are forced to shave their beards. Uighurs are threatened even after death: In an attempt to eradicate our burial and funeral traditions, the Chinese government is building crematoriums.

As many as 3 million people, out of a population of about 11 million, may be imprisoned in concentration camps in Xinjiang, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. The Chinese government claims that these facilities (there could be as many as 44 camps) are vocational training centers teaching courses such as tailoring, electronic assembly and the Chinese language. But the truth is these are nothing less than modern concentration camps, complete with armed guards, forced labor and barbed-wire fences. Inside, prisoners are indoctrinated with Communist Party propaganda, forced to renounce Islam, and have been forced to eat pork and drink alcohol in violation of their religious beliefs.

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RFA: Jailed Uyghur Scholar Ilham Tohti Receives Freedom House’s ‘Freedom Award’


Jailed Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti was honored on Wednesday at a ceremony in Washington D.C., where he was given the Freedom Award in absentia by the democracy watchdog group Freedom House.

Accepting the award on her father’s behalf at the May 8 gathering at Washington’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Tohti’s daughter Jewher Tohti said that she wished her father could have been present to accept his award in person.

“[And] I wish that this recognition were unnecessary,” Jewher Tohti said, “because that would mean that the Uyghur people were free.”

Ilham Tohti is someone who sees political and cultural oppression as a problem to be fixed, Jewher Tohti said, adding that China’s treatment of the Uyghur ethnic minority in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region, the Uyghurs’ historic homeland, “was always causing bigger societal damage.”

“Even before the horrendous crackdown, the camps, the torture of innocent people, China was creating larger, longer-term problems between groups of people,” she said.

“When people are treated and labeled as separate or different, as wrong or bad, human connection cannot happen.”

In remarks introducing the granting of the award, U.S. Senator from Colorado Cory Gardner said that Ilham Tohti knew that he would someday be jailed for “telling the story of his community, the Uyghurs.”

“He expected that his peaceful calls for connection and understanding between Uyghurs and Han Chinese would need to be silenced,” Gardner said.

“Like other historic champions of freedom and human rights, Ilham Tohti embodies a fearlessness to which we all aspire,” Gardner said, adding, “To put the cause of human liberty ahead of your own life is the ultimate act of courage,” Gardner said.

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RFA: Missing Uyghur Professor Presumed Detained in Xinjiang Political ‘Re-education Camp’


A Uyghur professor and founder of a Uyghur language software firm has been missing for more than a year and is presumed detained in a political “re-education camp” in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), according to sources.

A group of Uyghur intellectuals living in exile recently posted to social media a list of colleagues they believe are interned in the XUAR’s vast network of camps, where up to 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas have been held since April 2017.

Among those on the list is Alim Ahet, a faculty member at the School of Mathematics and System Science at Xinjiang University in the XUAR capital Urumqi, who the exiled intellectuals noted had “disappeared” from their WeChat group in January 2018.

Since then, they said, Ahet’s overseas contacts have been unable to communicate with him and believe he has been arrested.

Ahet had partnered with Microsoft while working as a lecturer at Xinjiang University and in 1998 formed Urumqi UighurSoft Computer Ltd.—the first company to produce software in the Uyghur, Kazakh and Kirgiz languages.

UighurSoft also produced dictionary software used by speakers of Uyghur, Kazakh and Kirgiz to study Chinese, as well as the first software to include a spell checking function for the three languages.

Ahet’s firm gained him recognition as a ground breaking software developer and in 2011, Chinese officials recognized him with an award as a “top ten innovator of China.”

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