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Uyghur scholar confirmed abducted by Chinese police 3 years ago

Abliz Orhun was arrested for his involvement in an unexplained ‘local case.’

Reported by Shohret Hoshur


Police officers stand at the entrance of the Urumqi No. 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng, northwestern China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, April 23, 2021.

A Uyghur historian and editor who was arrested by authorities in Beijing was handed over to police in China’s far-western Xinjiang region, where he has been detained for three years, Uyghur sources and police said.

Abliz Orhun was initially taken into custody by police from Urumqi (in Chinese, Wulumuqi), capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, in February 2018 when he was working as editor-in-chief of Xinjiang Difang Zhi (Xinjiang Regional Historiography) magazine in Beijing, according to the sources.

The Urumqi police later handed Abliz over to the Kumul (Hami) prefecture police in Xinjiang, the sources said.

A Uyghur source who lives in exile in Norway and who is familiar with the situation told RFA that Abliz had been harassed by Chinese national security police in 2010 because of his work with foreign researchers.

When contacted by RFA to find out where Abliz was being held and whether he had been sentenced to prison, a police officer at the Urumqi municipal police department’s national security branch said that the historian had been involved in a case in Kumul but did not elaborate.

The officer, who said he was in charge of a police unit but did not give his name, also said that authorities had transferred Abliz from Urumqi to Kumul.

“His case was related to the local [Kumul] authorities. That’s why he was taken by the local police. … [H]e was taken from Urumqi,” said the officer, who did not disclose whether Abliz had been sentenced or to which internment camp or prison he had been sent.

Emphasizing that the matter concerned “sensitive topics of state security,” the police officer said that he could not comment without formal written approval from the Chinese government.

“You can’t make this kind of inquiry,” he told an RFA reporter. “We have legal responsibilities to keep this information confidential. If we receive a government letter, then we can release this relevant information. We can’t just tell you everything on the phone.”

Chinese authorities have arrested numerous Uyghur intellectuals, prominent businessmen, and cultural and religious figures in Xinjiang for years as part of a campaign to control members of the mostly Muslim minority group and, purportedly, to prevent religious extremism and terrorist activities.

More than 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities are believed to have been held in a network of detention camps in Xinjiang since 2017. Beijing has said that the camps are vocational training centers and has denied widespread and documented allegations that it has mistreated Muslims living in Xinjiang.

The purges are among the abusive and repressive Chinese government policies that have been determined by the United States and other countries as constituting genocide against the Uyghurs.

Abliz had completed a special research project called the Chagatai Tomh Documents as part of his work, which later led to his interrogation by Chinese national security personnel, according to online information, Japanese scholars, and the Uyghur who lives in Norway.

Chagatai was the official and literary language of the Chagatai Khanate (1225-1687) in Central Asia, which included most of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and western Xinjiang. It was ruled by Ghengis Khan’s second son and his descendants.

The Chinese cited Abliz’s involvement in a “local case” as an excuse to arrest the scholar, as they have done with other Uyghur intellectuals, said the Uyghur who lives in Norway.

Abliz published a six-volume book of selections from articles published in the Xinjiang Difang Zhi magazine and Noshrvan Yaushev’s Letters of the Six City, he said. The historian also edited the memoirs of the late Saidullah Saipullayup, one of the leaders of the East Turkistan national revolution in the 1940s, and published them in the magazine.

Translated by the Uyghur Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.


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