PRESS RELEASE: Family Members of Former WUC President Arbitrarily Detained in East Turkestan
Over the last three months, Chinese authorities have detained a number of relatives of former WUC President and Uyghur rights activist, Rebiya Kadeer. Among those detained have been Ms. Kadeer’s sisters, brothers, sons, grandchildren and extended relatives, amid much more broad and extensive detentions of Uyghurs who have been sent to political ‘re-education’ centers.
After speaking to three Uyghurs who were confined in such facilities, Human Rights Watch reported on the centers back in September, detailing their conditions. Detainees are subjected to propaganda promoting Chinese identity and are required to recite Chinese and Xinjiang laws and policies and are compelled to watch pro-government propaganda videos, and to renounce their ethnic and religious identities.
Included in those arrested in recent months has been Ms. Kadeer’s son, Ablikim Abdiriyim, who served a nine-year prison sentence until he was released in 2015 for “instigating and engaging in secessionist activities” – evidence of which was never provided by the state. Family members of Uyghur activists living overseas have been targeted by the Chinese government in the past.
Amnesty International has reported that others detained include: Kahar Abdiriyim (m), Kadeer’s eldest son; Ayugul (f), Kahar’s wife; Aydidar (f) Kahar’s daughter; Zulpikar (m), Kahar’s son; Dildar (f), Kahar’s daughter; Alim Abdiriyim (m), Kadeer’s youngest son; Xelchem (f), Kadeer’s sister; Atikem (f) and her son-in-law; Imam (m), Xelchem’s son; Ahmetjan (m), Kadeer’s brother; Gheni (m), Kadeer’s brother.
The Chinese government has failed to provide any credible justification for detaining these people, as one witness to the more broad campaign stated that they were not presented with a warrant, evidence of a crime, or any other documentation. Family members of those detained have also not been informed of their whereabouts. The dates of initial detention as well as locations remain unclear, compounding the risk of ill-treatment.
Following the forced return of thousands of Uyghurs studying overseas, many Uyghurs were reportedly jailed immediately following their return, suggesting that the Chinese government is targeting those who have recently travelled abroad or those who have family abroad.
China has used similar centers in the past through their Re-Education Through Labour (RTL) programs that operated during and following the Cultural Revolution. Although China formally ended the program in 2013, Amnesty International has reported in the past that such centers have merely changed names and continued operations.
The WUC therefore calls on the Chinese government to immediately halt the operation of such centers as they clearly do not comply with even the most basic legal rights of Uyghurs in East Turkestan and continue to substantially undermine the free expression on Uyghur identity.