China: Release the Thousands of Uyghur Prisoners of Influence
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China: Release the Thousands of Uyghur Prisoners of Influence
By Torchlight Uyghur Group
This Petition Is Also Available In The Following Languages: Turkish (Turkçe), German (Deutsch), French (Français), Arabic (عربى), Russian (Pусский), Spanish (Español), Uyghur (ئۇيغۇرچە), Slawyan (Kiril), Japanese (日本語),
February 3, 2018
We stated in our first 2 petitions that more than 1 million Uyghurs, or more than 10% of the Uyghur population living in East Turkestan (refer to the 2010 Chinese census) are currently being held illegally in jails, Nazi-style political “re-education” concentration camps and orphanages (http://chn.ge/2CAIJFR http://chn.ge/2Dw8YAU ). The arrest of the Uyghurs in large numbers has been going on for a long time, but it intensified since July 2009, after the July 5th massacre that took place in Urumchi, the capital of East Turkestan, and has reached to a record level since Chen Quan-guo took office as the Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in East Turkestan. The Uyghur detainees came from all spans of life, as exemplified in our recent report titled “Political Persecution of the Uyghurs — Brief Description of Some Individual Cases” (http://freedomsherald.org/ET/unb/ Among them, there is a special category of people, namely, prominent Uyghurs or Uyghurs of influence. They represent a group of people in various areas of life and profession, who have prominent influence among the Uyghurs, or play leading roles in the Uyghur society or in their own fields of profession, such as intellectuals, writers, lecturers, poets, website owners and administrators, business owners, entrepreneurs, leading community activists, actors-actresses, religious figures, sports professionals, and even some rich people. Therefore, they can be called “the Uyghur prisoners of influence”. They are very similar to the “prisoners of conscience” that are common to Han Chinese and the other ethnic groups in China, including the Uyghurs. But the Uyghur prisoners of influence were jailed or detained in concentration camps for a different reason, that is, for being famous and/or influential among their own community or in their own professional fields. If we imagine the whole Uyghur population as a person, these prisoners of influence can be considered as his/her head, and the Chinese government is now slowly cutting the head off.
Here is an article published on 2 Feb. 2018 in “New York Times” related to the above issue:
What It’s Like to Live in a Surveillance State
Recently, several media outlets have reported on the arrests of several prominent Uyghurs and leading Uyghur intellectuals. They include Halmurat Ghopur (a leading intellectual), Abdurehim Heyit (a famous singer and musician), Yasinjan Moydin (a businessman and restaurant owner; got ill in a jail, and recently died in a hospital), Ahmatjan Heyder (a religious figure; got released from a jail after getting seriously ill, but died shortly thereafter), Muhammed Salih (a religious leader and scholar; he did the modern translation of the Holy Quran from Arabic to Uyghur language; he was taken into a concentration camp recently, and died on Jan. 24 at 82. His two daughters and a son-in-law also got arrested), Hebibullah Tohti (returned from Egypt after getting a doctor’s degree, and sentenced to a 10-years prison term shortly thereafter), four wealthiest Uyghurs in Kashgar, and some Uyghurs who studied abroad. The charges mentioned included “having nationalist tendencies”, “acts against the state”, “having extremist or politically incorrect views”, “being two-faced” and “undertaking unapproved, private hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca)”. Some of such reports can be found at http://freedomsherald.org/ET/unb/ Previously, the jailing of the Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti received wide coverage in the international media. However, the most cases in such nature still remain unnoticed and unreported, even though such action of the Chinese government is having devastating impact on the Uyghur society and on the lives of all the Uyghur people in East Turkestan and abroad.
We have obtained information on many more cases of the arrested and the detained influential and/or prominent Uyghurs from people who fled China recently, but we restrained ourselves from presenting such cases in this petition. The reason is, the Chinese government is currently using one of their ancient tactics in oppressing the whole Uyghur population, namely, “not only cut the grass, but also destroy the roots” (斩草除根). Based on this tactic, if the Chinese government suspects the loyalty of an Uyghur on themselves, they not only arrest and in some cases kill with some fake charges that person, but also they do the same to his/her extended family members. So it is very common that a lot of Uyghur families have lost more than 10 extended family members to jails, concentration camps and orphanages. Several examples of such cases are presented in the above report.
We have learned that the Chinese government has issued “arrest schedules”, “look-up tables” and printed verdicts with two blank spaces, the first for the name and the second for the jail time of the future “criminals”, to local government officials and airport administrators. These documents are issued from the top at the provincial government level down to the heads of all villages. According to such directives, the Uyghurs who “committed” crimes are divided into 3 categories: (1) 6 months to 3 years jail term (副管 in Chinese). People belonging to this category are ordinary, innocent ones who were arrested to fill some quota came down from the top. For example, in 2017, Urumchi police issued an order to all its branches to arrest 3000 Uyghurs and Kazakhs in this category within a week. This was reported by the Radio-Free Asia (USA). (2) 7 – 10 years jail term (严管). It is for people who have relatives abroad, who were found to have stored forbidden contents in their smartphones, and activists. (3) 10 - 15 years jail term (强管). It is for people who returned from abroad, who were forcibly returned from abroad, “political criminals”, and people with religious knowledge. When “catching” an Uyghur “criminal”, a local government official first determines which category that “criminal” belongs to, fills out a pre-printed verdict mentioned above, and gives that verdict to that “criminal” right at the spot.
For example, since 2016 the CCP government in East Turkestan pressured the parents of the Uyghur students studying in different parts of the world, often using jail terms as a threat. As a result, some unknown number of Uyghur students (the number is in the thousands in our estimate) went back to East Turkestan to save their parents from trouble. However, many of those students were sentenced to 3 – 7 years of jail terms and were taken to jails directly from the Urumchi airport upon their return. In many cases their parents had never seen them after returning from abroad. They just simply disappeared in East Turkestan or somewhere else in China.
According to the accounts of a close friend who talked to us, Behtiyar, an Uyghur man in his 20s, decided to visit his parents and other relatives in Kashgar in the summer of 2016. Because restrictions and punishments are much more severe in Kashgar than in Urumchi, he decided to protect himself from all the potential troubles by having his smartphone “cleaned up” in a police “black market” in Urumchi. The police servicemen there asked him to pay 500 Yuan (more than $80) for the service. He paid them and thought he had made his smartphone “safe” to travel to Kashgar. He was thoroughly checked after he got off the airplane in Kashgar, including his smartphone. At that time, one of the police officers told him that he found prohibited contents in Behtiyar’s phone, including a photo of Turkish president Erdogan and another photo of a Turkish national flag. But Behtiyar explained to them what he did in Urumchi before starting this trip. However, they told him that they can retrieve all the deleted contents from a smartphone. The police called Behtiyar’s parents and told them that they need to pay the police 30,000 Yuan (about $5,000) to get their son back, otherwise their son will be jailed. It took 3 days for Behtiyar’s parents to come up with such money. When they finally came to the airport with the money, the police told them that their son had been arrested, given a 7-year prison term and sent to a jail whose location was unknown to them. Behtiyar was simply disappeared this way. The person who told us the above real story also told us that one prohibited content found in someone’s smart phone earns him or her a minimum 7-year jail term. That is consistent with Bahtiyar’s 7-years prison term.
Behtiyar is not a prominent Uyghur nor a leading intellectual. He is just an average Uyghur. But we told the above story so that you would understand how a jail term is now easily handed out to an innocent Uyghur in East Turkestan.
There was a young Uyghur bodybuilder in southern East Turkestan. He was well-known to the Uyghur youth with his well-developed and very good-looking body. He is good in bodybuilding but not known in anything else. However, the Chinese government targeted him as a suspect because of his influence among the young Uyghur people. One day the police came up with a fake crime for him and threw him in a jail with a 5-year prison term. In East Turkestan, jailing an influential Uyghur figure is as simple as that. That is, being prominent or being influential among the Uyghurs is a serious crime in East Turkestan, and thousands of innocent Uyghurs were jailed and detained for such “crime”. That is part of the reasons why more than 1 million young and adult Uyghurs are currently being held either in jails or in concentration camps, and their small children are sent to orphanages.
The English-language program of the Voice of America (VOA) reported that “Recently, the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has drawn attention to increased restrictions on the ability of Uighurs in China to express and practice their religion. The State Department’s annual Human Rights Report also has highlighted repression of Uighurs’ freedoms of speech, movement, association, and assembly.” We, the Torchlight Uyghur group, thank the US government, as well as the governments of the other countries and various international organizations for their support towards the Uyghur people. In the mean time, we appeal to the United Nations, foreign governments, and other international human rights and humanitarian organizations to demand the Chinese government to unconditionally release those thousands of Uyghur prisoners of influence.
We, the Uyghurs, are powerless and helpless at the moment. As such, we cannot defend ourselves against the Chinese government’s atrocities and cannot fight this battle for our survival alone. We need the support of the global community. If tens of thousands of people from around the world sign our petition, it may be possible that the United Nations will make a commitment and will act to stop the tragedy that the Uyghur people are facing today.
Please join us in our fight to end the appalling atrocities happening in East Turkestan. Please sign and share this petition. Thank you!
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