Gulmira Imin and and another four Uyghur website moderators

Sentenced in April 2010 to life imprisonment for “splittism, leaking state secrets, and organizing an illegal demonstration.”

Chinese security forces detained Gulmira Imin (born in 1978) on 14 July 2009 in the city of Aksu, East Turkestan for her alleged involvement in the organization of the 5 July 2009 demonstration in Urumqi.

At the time of her arrest, Gulmira was as a staff member at the local government office in Aksu where she had began to work in 2000. In addition, she also contributed to the Uyghur-language website Salkin with poetry and short stories and had been invited to help as a moderator in late spring 2009. Gulmira had been critical of government policies in her online writings.

Salkin, we well as other Uyghur websites, reportedly posted an announcement calling Uyghurs to demonstrate in Urumqi on 5 July 2009 against the government´s inaction regarding the Shaoguan incident.

Note on Shaoguan incident: At a toy factory in Shaoguan, in the southern province of Guangdong, at least two, but possibly several dozen Uyghur migrant workers were killed by Han Chinese workers on 26 June 2009. While the 5 July protest seemed to be sparked by this incident, the root causes lie in the longstanding discriminatory policies of the Chinese government towards the Uyghurs and the egregious repression of Uyghurs’ religious, political, educational, linguistic, and economic rights.

The 5 July protest was planned as a peaceful protest, was in fact peaceful, and was brutally and lethally suppressed by Chinese security forces. The violent and illegal reaction of the Chinese security forces led then to ethnic violence and riots between Uyghurs and Han Chinese. According to data published by the Chinese Xinhua news agency, thousands were injured and 197 people were killed, but the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) estimates – based on eyewitness reports – that more than 1000 people died in the riots. However, until today, the exact death toll on both sides is not clear since so far no independent investigation of these events has been undertaken. In addition, hundreds of people were detained and an untold number (probably hundreds) of people disappeared.

Gulmira was in Urumqi on 5 July to participate in the demonstration, which many Uyghurs considered legal (demonstration had been announced in internet for several days and was not removed by Chinese authorities, therefore many people believed that the demonstration was authorized by the authorities), and witnessed the brutal crackdown of the demonstration. In the course of the day, she spoke several times by phone with her husband who is living in Norway and told him what was happening on Urumqi. During the conversations, her husband could clearly hear gunshots in the back and Gulmira told him that she saw a lot of casualties, several dead bodies, and that demonstrators were running around and that there was a lot of chaos.

After the events of 5 July 2009, Gulmira was disappeared for three month. Her family believed that she might have been killed in the aftermath of the protests. Her husband in Norway tried to reach Gulmira and family members by phone and e-mail to know her whereabouts, but in the night from 5 – 6 July, Chinese authorities imposed a communication blackout on East Turkestan, which remained in place for nearly 10 months thereby largely cutting off East Turkestan’s residents from the outside world (no internet, no telephone).

Her family only learned about her detention in October 2009, when China Central Television (CCTV) broadcasted a documentary entitled The July 5 Riot from Start to Finish which named and showed Gulmira, wearing prison attire:

It claimed that the July 5th unrest in Urumqi was organized by separatist forces cooperating inside and outside the country and said that Gulmira was one of six organizers who attended three meetings planning the demonstration and that she leaked state secrets to her husband. The leaks were allegedly made in the before mentioned phone calls from Gulmira to her husband on 5 July.

China Central Television also drew links between Gulmira and the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), which the Chinese authorities have accused of instigating the “riot” or orchestrating events on 5 July 2009, an accusation that is absolutely false and fabricated.

The sentence against her became public only on 8 August 2010 in an article published by Radio Free Asia (RFA). On 1 April 2010, the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court tried, convicted, and sentenced Gulmira to life in prison for “splittism, leaking state secrets, and organizing an illegal demonstration” that are crimes under Articles 103, 111, and 296 of China’s Criminal Law. Her lawyer, whom she never had met before, was present during the trial. Another five other Uyghur defendants – all website moderators – were sentenced together with Gulmira, namely:  Ahmet Tursun, Muhter, Memetjan Abdulla, Tursun Mehmet, and Gulnisa Memet.

During her trial, Gulmira Imin is said to have tried to address the court about torture and other ill-treatment in a police detention centre that was overcrowded and had no shower facilities. In detention, she and other detainees were given salty water to drink, they were not allowed to go to the toilet, they were beaten, and the wounded were left untreated. Finally she was coerced into signing a document without knowing the content.

Since her conviction, Gulmira has met her lawyer only twice. She is allowed to receive family visits once every three months. She appealed to the court sentence (date unknown), but her appeal was rejected. Gulmira is currently held in the Xinjiang Women’s Prison (Xinjiang No. 2 Prison) in Urumqi.

Sources:

U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Entry for “Gulmire Imin” in Political Prisoner Database (CECC Record Number: 2010-00238), available at: http://ppd.cecc.gov/QueryResultsDetail.aspx?PrisonerNum=7948

Committee to protect Journalists (CPJ), “Imprisoned Journalists in 2010”, 1 December 2010, available at: http://www.cpj.org/imprisoned/2010.php#china

Radio Free Asia (RFA), Uyghur Web Moderators Get Life, 08 August 2010, available at: http://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/sentence-08082010190802.html

RFA Unplugged, The Fight For Justice Takes Its Toll On Uyghur Family, 10 September 2010, available at:  http://www.rfaunplugged.org/2010/09/01/the-fight-for-justice-takes-its-toll-on-uyghur-family/

China Central Television (CCTV), The July 5 Riot from Start to Finish, documentary, available on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2a0kN7E4GlA&feature=related (part 1), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaObRk6h7jY&feature=related (part 2) and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlg6sI7-3qA&feature=related (part 3)

[Last updated: October 2011]