World Uyghur Congress Deeply Concerned Of Reports of Death Sentence for Uyghur Philanthropist
The Chinese government must grant immediate reprieve to Abdughapar Abdurusul, a Uyghur businessman and philanthropist, who was recently reportedly sentenced to death for taking an unsanctioned pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. Not only is the sentence disproportionate and arbitrary, it is illustrative of a broader trend of persecution of Uyghurs and similar sentences in 2018.
Radio Free Asia reported this week that Abdurusul, a resident of Ghulja City in the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, was arrested in July or August 2018 and sentenced without the aid of a lawyer during a group trial shortly afterwards.
The information was corroborated by a number of people close to Abdurusul including his brother, Abdusattar Abdurusul, his former neighbour who now resides in Turkey, as well as a former business associate who lives in exile.
His brother said that his sister, Sayipjamal, has also been missing for “a long time” and that several friends have been sentenced to long prison terms. The long-time associate also told RFA that his wife, Merhaba Hajim, was taken to one of the internment camps (known also as ‘re-education camps) in April this year and died at some point during detention there.
The camps began construction on a large-scale in mid-2017, but have increased in size in 2018. The camps operate as prisons, with razor-wire strung across the tops of high walls and no communication possible with family outside. Conditions have been described by numerous sources as poor with torture playing a significant role. At least 30 deaths have been reported including the mother of WUC president Dolkun Isa, Ayhan Memet, and prominent religious scholar, Muhammad Salih Hajim.
The reported sentence comes shortly following reports of the suspended death sentence of prominent Uyghur physician and academic, Halmurat Ghopur, who was arrested in November 2017 and taken to an unknown location on alleged “acts against the state.” Both sentences indicate a possible trend by Chinese authorities giving unwarranted death sentences to prominent Uyghurs, alongside mass detention in the camps.
WUC President, Dolkun Isa, said of the sentence, “On top of the million Uyghurs taken away from their homes without charges, the Chinese government continues to quietly arrest and sentence Uyghurs to grossly disproportionate jail terms without any oversight whatsoever.”
According to Amnesty International, in 2016 China executed more than all other countries in the world put together. Amnesty reported in April 2017 that, “Chinese authorities enforce an elaborate secrecy system to obscure the shocking scale of executions in the country, despite repeated claims it is making progress towards judicial transparency.” The serious lack of transparency around sentencing and complete absence of legal rights or due process is compounded in the Uyghur region given that so little information is accessible.
We are therefore calling for full transparency in the immediate case to determine the circumstances around the reported sentencing of Abdughapar Abdurusul as well as information on sentencing more broadly, which continues to take place under a veil of secrecy.
The use of the death penalty has no place in the 21st century. According to available information, Mr. Abdurusul and Mr. Ghopur were simply exercising their basic rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion. Their reported death sentences stand as an affront to justice and human dignity.