A senior Uyghur publishing executive and Communist Party official was arrested in July on suspicion he was involved in “separatism and religious extremism activities,” a source in the publishing sector told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
Abdurahman Abey, approximately 65, had a 40-year career in writing and publishing in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), serving as director of the official Xinhua Bookstore, and from 2005-2015 as director and Communist Party deputy secretary of the Xinjiang People's Publishing House.
In Chinese media he had been portrayed as an “energetic publisher” who won national awards in the field every year from 2003-13.
Following an anonymous tip that Abey was arrested in July, RFA’s Uyghur Service called official organizations in Xinjiang, including the Uyghur Autonomous Regional Party Committee, the Discipline Inspection Commission, the Organization Department, the Cultural Supervision Bureau and the Xinjiang People's Publishing House.
A staff member at the Xinjiang Youth Publishing House confirmed the arrest of Abey and gave some details.
“During the time when he was working at the Xinjiang People's Publishing House (Abey) was implicated in separatism and religious extremism activities. Therefore he is under arrest and further investigation,” said the staffer.
“He left the youth publishing house a long time ago, and the incidents took place after he started working in the People's Publishing House, and his arrest has been reported within Xinjiang,” the staffer added.
Local websites said Abey left his position as director of Xinjiang People's Publishing House in January 2015, and was appointed as the manager of the History Research Office of the Xinjiang Autonomous Political Expansion Committee. He left that post in January 2017.
The anonymous person who provided the arrest tip to RFA said Abey came under suspicion by Chinese authorities at the beginning of 2015. He was questioned regularly by various relevant departments, the source said.
His current whereabouts and the status of his case are not known.
The letter that tipped off RFA on Abey’s arrest also revealed that other prominent Uyghurs including novelist Yasinjan Sadiq Choghlan, Xinjiang Art Institute professor Qeyum Muhemmed, poet Muhtar Bughra, and singer Zulpiqar Kuresh have all been arrested since the beginning of 2018.
Chinese authorities have in recent years campaigned against and punished what they call “two-faced” Uyghur cadres, accusing local ethnic officials of paying lip service to Communist Party rule in the XUAR, while secretly chafing against state policies repressing members of their ethnic group.
In addition to the arrests of officials, Uyghurs accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas have since April 2017 been detained without legal process in re-education camps throughout the XUAR, where members of the ethnic group have long complained of pervasive discrimination, religious repression, and cultural suppression under Chinese rule.
Western governments have increasingly drawn attention to re-education camps in the XUAR in recent months as media reports detail the stories of Uyghurs who have been detained in the facilities.
Focus on detention camps
U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert recently said the U.S. government was "deeply troubled" by the crackdown on Uyghurs in Xinjiang, adding that “credible reports indicate that individuals sent by Chinese authorities to detention centers since April 2017 number at least in the hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions.”
Adrian Zenz, a lecturer in social research methods at the Germany-based European School of Culture and Theology, has said that some 1.1 million people are or have been detained in the re-education camps, which equates to 10 to 11 percent of the adult Muslim population of the region.
The Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) a U.S. congressional advisory panel, on Wednesday issued an annual report on China’s human rights situation, calling it “dire” and on a “continued downward trajectory, by virtually every measure.”
“Of particular concern is the mass, arbitrary, internment of as many as 1 million or more Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in “political reeducation” camps in western China,” the report said.
Senator Marco Rubio, CECC chairman, and Representative Chris Smith, cochairman of the body, said they plan to introduce the Xinjiang Uygur Human Rights Act, which would “direct U.S. resources to address gross violations of universally recognized human rights, including the mass internment of over a million Uyghurs and other predominately Muslim ethnic minorities in China and the intimidation and threats faced by U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.”
China regularly conducts “strike hard” campaigns in Xinjiang, including police raids on Uyghur households, restrictions on Islamic practices, and curbs on the culture, food customs and language of the Uyghur people.
While China blames some Uyghurs for terror attacks, experts outside China say Beijing has exaggerated the threat from the Uyghurs and that repressive domestic policies are responsible for an upsurge in violence there that has left hundreds dead since 2009.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur and translated by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Paul Eckert.