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The Persecution of the Intellectuals in the Uyghur Region: Disappeared Forever?

The Persecution of the Intellectuals in the Uyghur Region: Disappeared Forever?
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Uyghur Human Rights Project, October 22, 2018

UHRP – In the current crackdown in East Turkestan (aka Xinjiang), the Chinese authorities have made Uyghur intellectuals a principal target.  A new report from the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) entitled “The Persecution of the Intellectuals in the Uyghur Region: Disappeared Forever?” details how 231 intellectuals have been forcibly disappeared, interned in political indoctrination camps, removed from their posts or imprisoned since April 2017. The individuals identified by UHRP likely represent only a small proportion of those impacted.

UHRP’s Director Omer Kanat will present the findings of the report at the Scholars at Risk event “A Year in Attacks on Higher Education,” at the NYU School of Law on October 23rd at 6 pm.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has frequently targeted Uyghur academics, students, and artists, including noted scholar Ilham Tohti, in a bid to silence dissenting views to repressive state policies. However, the latest persecution of intellectuals represents a significant escalation of ethnic suppression, as even Uyghurs loyal to the state and party are now subject to absurd allegations, such as harboring separatist tendencies, and labeled as “two-faced.” 

Those disappeared and believed to be held in the camps include Rahile Dawut, an internationally known folklorist, literature professors Abdukerim Rahman, Azat Sultan and Gheyretjan Osman, language professor Arslan Abdulla and poet Abdulqadir Jalaleddin.  High ranking university administrators such as Kashgar University’s president Erkin Omer and vice president Muhter Abdughopur have been removed from their posts and their whereabouts are unknown, while others such as Halmurat Ghopur, former president of Xinjiang Medical University Hospital and former president of Xinjiang University Tashpolat Tiyip have received suspended death sentences.  Other prominent figures have already died in the camps, including the religious scholars Muhammad Salih Hajim and Abdulnehed Mehsum.

The disappearances of Uyghur intellectuals belie the Chinese government’s assertions that the “re-education” campaign is an effort to de-radicalize the population and combat terrorism.  Instead it is part of a coordinated effort to undermine and eliminate a distinct Uyghur identity as rapidly as possible in an unprecedentedly aggressive forced assimilation campaign. 

UHRP calls on the government of China to immediately release all scholars, writers, artists, and students arbitrarily detained and at risk of harsh mistreatment, including torture. UHRP urges governments and academic institutions around the world to vigorously press the Chinese government for information about the whereabouts and well-being of disappeared and detained academics and intellectuals

Academic institutions that have hosted Uyghur academics as international guests in the past should seek information about the whereabouts and well-being of these scholars and their families. Academic publishers should seek information about the whereabouts and well-being of Uyghur scholars who have published articles in their journals.  Individual scholars should consider joining the Xinjiang Initiative ( and pledge to raise the issue of Uyghur human rights at public events.

UHRP also calls on the international community to utilize China’s November 2018 Universal Periodic Review to question the Chinese government about the arbitrary internment and imprisonment of Uyghur academics and students.  Individual countries as well as the UN should send observers, particularly the Special Rapporteurs on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and on minority issues to East Turkestan, to impartially conduct an assessment of China’s compliance to its international obligations.

The full report can be downloaded at: