Abduhelil Abdurehim was picked up by police in November 2021.
By Shohret Hoshur
Abduhelil Abdurehim in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of Abdusemi Abdurehim
A Uyghur who studied in Japan as a graduate student and worked at a restaurant chain in China’s far-western Xinjiang region after he returned home was detained at his residence by local police in late 2021, local Uyghur sources said.
At the time of his arrest, Abduhelil Abdurehim lived in the Lijing residential complex on Union Road in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi (in Chinese, Wulumuqi) and worked at the Uyghur restaurant chain Herembagh where he updated information on the company’s website.
His brother, Abdusemi Abdurehim, who now lives in Japan, said he lost contact with Abduhelil in November 2021 and began to worry about his safety when he noticed that Herembagh’s website was no longer being updated.
Abdusemi suspected that authorities may have detained his brother because Abduhelil also stopped communicating via his WeChat messaging app.
The last time he was in contact with his brother on WeChat was on June 12, along with their sister, Abdusemi said.
“He said he was fine and working,” said Abdusemi. “On June 26, when we sent him a WeChat message, he didn’t respond.”
When Abdusemi and the sister contacted Abduhelil’s wife to inquire about his brother, she told him that his phone was not working and he took it to be repaired.
“If it takes longer, then he might get a new one and he will contact you then,” she told Abdusemi.
“After hearing that explanation, we felt suspicious because a similar incident happened to him in 2020,” Abdusemi told RFA.
“I also found out that Herembagh stopped putting new information on its website since Dec. 10 of last year,” he said. “I then suspected that something happened to my brother.”
Chinese authorities have arrested numerous Uyghur intellectuals, prominent businessmen, and cultural and religious figures in Xinjiang as well as Uyghurs who have lived abroad 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.
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.
When RFA contacted Herembagh, an employee in the company’s human resources department, who did not provide a name, said he could not recall that someone named Abduhelil Abdurehim worked there. The employee said he would check the department files, but did not resume the call.
RFA also contacted security personnel at Abduhelil’s residential complex and was told that he had stopped working and was being held in detention.
“He stopped working his job,” said a security staffer who did not give his name. “It’s been quite a while, I believe. From last winter on.”
The staffer also said that Abduhelil had been detained by police from the Ghalibiyet (Shengli) police station in Urumqi, though they did not state the reason for his arrest when they met with security personnel at the residential complex.
The staffer declined to discuss details about what information the police asked for.
“I can’t talk about this,” he said.
Local police had summoned Abduhelil to the police station several times prior to his detention in November 2021 and were checking his mobile phone, his brother told RFA.
After Abduhelil graduated from Xinjiang University in 1998, he worked for a television station in his hometown of Kelpin (Keping) county, Aksu (Akesu) prefecture in southern Xinjiang, for a year, Abdusemi said.
A year later, Abduhelil went to Japan to study for a master’s and a doctoral degree at Chiba University in the city of the same name. There he pursued computer studies and was involved in Uyghur-language research in Japan.
Abduhelil returned to Xinjiang in 2010, settling in the region’s capital Urumqi where he worked for several computer companies in the following years before his stint at Herembagh.
Translated by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.