Chinese authorities in Xinjiang have placed an outspoken Uyghur mother under virtual house arrest, over concerns she may publicize the long-running case of her missing son as the region hosts a high-profile international exposition.
Widow Patigul Ghulam said several policemen and local officials violently bundled her into her home as she was leaving to buy groceries on Sunday morning, telling her she has to be confined to her residence in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi until Sept. 8, after the second annual China-Eurasia Expo held in the city concludes.
Patigul Ghulam has been one of the most vocal Uyghurs who have been pressing the authorities on the whereabouts of family members missing during the violence in Urumqi on July 5, 2009 between minority Muslim Uyghurs and Han Chinese that left 200 people dead.
Sources said that by confining her to her home, the authorities wanted to avoid "negative publicity" over her missing son during the expo, which is slated to run from Sept. 2 to 7 and has attracted several heads of state and participants from 55 countries.
"They blocked my way as I reached to the door to go out. They said, 'You cannot go outside,’" Patigul Ghulam told RFA's Uyghur service by telephone from her home. "I insisted that I go out and do the shopping but they said they can buy the things for me."
"Suddenly, they used physical force on me and pushed me into my home, and when I stood my ground, my hand was injured," Patigul Ghulam said, identifying her neighborhood's ruling Chinese Communist Party Secretary Li Jianming as the one who "pushed [her] harshly."
She said that she continued to remain outside her residence and defended her rights with the police and local officials for more than two hours until her neighbors advised her to abide by the police orders and go indoors.
She said her son, Imammemet Eli, 25, was taken by police on July 14, 2009 and that the last time she heard about him was nine months later when fellow inmates said he was found severely tortured and taken to a hospital.
He is among several thousand, according to Uyghur exile groups, who were forcibly disappeared in the aftermath of the violence, the most deadly episode of ethnic unrest in China’s recent history.
Patigul Ghulam said it was unfair that she was being "victimized," saying the authorities should be held accountable for her missing son.
“I am not the guilty party, I am a victim who lost my son," she said, accusing the authorities of "terrorism" for "taking [her] child away."
"If I am guilty, then take me to your jail or detention center, hold me there until everything is exposed instead of making my house a detention center for me,” she said.
There are about 20 policemen on guard outside her apartment, she said.
"Today is the third day I am imprisoned in my apartment. Yesterday was the only time I went out, when I went with the police to the doctor to treat my injured hand."
Patigul Ghulam, who has four children, said that her family life has been in shambles since her son went missing.
She said her salary from needlepoint work had been cut because of her constant petitioning and that her second son had to pass up college because she could not afford to send him.
At one point, she spent eight days in a detention facility after insulting a police officer who would not listen to her pleas.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA's Uyghur service. Translated by Shohret Hoshur. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.