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Uyghur farmer sentenced to prison for saving wife from forced abortion dies in jail

Abdureshid Obul was charged with religious extremism for having a fourth child.

by Shohret Hoshur


A Uyghur woman pushes her children in a stroller through a police checkpoint at a night food market near the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, northwestern China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, June 25, 2017. AFP

A Uyghur farmer jailed for moving his pregnant wife from their hometown in Xinjiang to prevent authorities from forcing her to have an abortion died in 2020 while serving an eight-year prison sentence, a Uyghur with knowledge of the situation and local police officials confirmed to RFA this month.

Abdureshid Obul from Lenger village in Keriye (in Chinese Yutian) county, saved his wife from the forced abortion by moving from Hotan (Hetian) prefecture in the summer of 2012, according to a Uyghur from the same county who now lives abroad.

Abdureshid and his wife returned a year after the birth. Upon their return, village police detained and interrogated him for a week. He was released after he underwent “political re-education” and paid a 20,000 yuan (U.S. $3,150) for violating the government’s family planning policy, the source said.

Ethnic minority families that lived in rural areas were limited to two children under the government’s policy.

Abdureshid and his wife had three children when she was pregnant with the fourth child, a son.

In 2017, as Chinese officials ratcheted up a crackdown on Uyghurs, detaining hundreds of thousands of members of the mostly Muslim community for “religious extremism,” authorities reconsidered Abdureshid’s action to be a crime requiring harsher punishment, the source said.

Although Abdureshid had paid the fine, authorities sent him again to an internment camp, said the source, who asked not to be named so that he could speak freely.

The source said there had been a sudden surge that year in the enforcement of the family planning policy.

Abdureshid spent two years in the camp, before being sentenced to eight years in prison for relocating to avoid the forced abortion, which the government said was an antigovernment action, an example of religious extremism, and a disruption of the social order, according to the source.

He died in Keriye Prison after serving only one year of his sentence, and authorities handed his body over to his family, he said.

Chinese government officials in Keriye county contacted by RFA confirmed that Abdureshid died while in prison.

When asked about residents who recently died while in jail, a Saybagh hamlet police officer, who did not give his name, mentioned Abdureshid by name and confirmed information provided by the Uyghur in exile.

“He was sentenced to eight years in prison for violating the family planning policy,” the policeman said. “It’s been two years since he died of an illness.”

Abdureshid was about 50 years old at the time of his death, he said.

Authorities in Xinjiang have inconsistently applied the family planning policy, sometimes cracking down on violators and sometimes giving them a pass. But in recent years, forced abortions have reached record numbers among Uyghurs in the region, observers say.

As part of the crackdown that began in 2017, the Chinese government implemented population control measures for Uyghurs, including forced sterilizations and abortions.

Uyghur and other Turkic minority women who have been detained in Xinjiang’s vast network of internment camps but later released have reported being raped, tortured and forced to undergo sterilization surgery.

Such population control measures, among other repressive policies in Xinjiang, were cited by some Western parliaments and the United States as evidence that China is committing genocide against the Uyghurs.

Translated by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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