A guard tower rises along the perimeter fence of an internment camp in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in a file photo.
Authorities have yet to say why the man was detained, or how he died.
A retired Uyghur civil servant abducted by police and taken to an internment camp more than three years ago died at the end of last year, a Uyghur source in exile said.
Niyaz Nasir, 78, had worked at a government food bureau in Toqquzaq county (in Chinese, Shufu Xian) in the Kashgar (Kashi Diqu) prefecture of northwestern China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. No explanation was given for his death, and the reasons for his detention are still unclear.
The Uyghur exile said that Niyaz Nasir’s body was returned to his family by authorities with orders that it be immediately buried.
Niyaz’s three children, members of the Chinese Communist Party and also civil servants, had asked that their father be released on bail from the camp in Toqquzaq’s Opal township after seeing him weak and fragile in a virtual meeting on screen in late 2018, a month before his death.
Authorities refused their request, however, saying that Niyaz was in good health “and in better condition than many others,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
Reached for comment, an official at the Toqquzaq county judiciary bureau said he had heard no reports of the detainee’s death, adding that officials in his bureau were not routinely informed of deaths in the camps. The official said that he was also unaware that Niyaz’s sons and daughter had asked for his release on bail.
A security director at Toqquzaq’s Bulaqsu village, where Niyaz and his children had lived in Hamlet No. 6, told RFA that the pensioner had been arrested in 2018 and had died in the camp.
“He died at the end of last year,” he said, adding that Niyaz had worked at the county food bureau. “He was a government employee.”
The security director said that Niyaz’s sons and daughter — identified by RFA’s source in exile as Abdulnasir, Abdulahad and Amangul — worked for the county food bureau, the agricultural bank, and the commerce and industry administration.
He did not know what steps they may have taken to secure their father’s release, he said.
Over a million held in camps
China has held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a network of detention camps since 2017. Beijing has said the camps are vocational training centers and has denied widespread and documented allegations that it has mistreated and tortured incarcerated Muslims.
Increased international awareness of the camp system and other abuses, including forced labor and forced sterilization of women, has prompted parliaments in Canada, the Netherlands, the U.K. and Lithuania, as well as the U.S. State Department, to brand China’s actions in the region as genocide.
On Dec. 10, Human Rights Day, the United States imposed a U.S. visa ban on the current and previous chairmen of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Erken Tuniyaz and Shorat Zakir — both ethnic Uyghurs — who had presided over a surveillance program that resulted in mass detentions.
And on Dec. 8, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his government would join a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics along with the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Lithuania, over human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Reported and translated by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.