Police Enforced Family Burial

The father of an ethnic Uyghur man in northwest China says police turned out in force.
2009-09-21
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A map of China's northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
RFA

HONG KONG—Police in China’s remote Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region surrounded the home of an ethnic Uyghur man who died in police custody and forced the family to bury him without an inquiry into how he died, the man’s father said.

The burial on Sunday ended a tense standoff between police in remote Lengger [in Chinese, Langan] village and the family of Shohret Tursun, 31, whose badly bruised and disfigured body was released to his relatives on Saturday.

On Saturday, one villager said eight trucks of soldiers and two other armed vehicles had surrounded Tursun’s family home in Lengger [in Chinese, Langan] village in Qorghas [in Chinese, Huocheng] county, Ili prefecture—after the family refused to bury him as instructed without an inquiry.

“We locked the door of the room where we keep the body, but the police officers broke the lock,” Tursun’s father, Tursun Ishan, said in an interview. “There were too many…”

“There were police officers waiting in front of our door. From the cemetery to the house, it was full of police officers on the street. Since yesterday, there were police officers on each and every corner of the city. They wouldn't let people from other neighborhoods join the funeral.”

“My two daughters were trying to prevent the police officers from entering, but the police were very harsh with them. We were forced to bury [the body],” Ishan said.

“They told me that he had a heart attack. But it was a lie. It is a lie. My son never had a medical problem in his life,” Ishan said.

“His body was full of wounds and bruises—his legs, belly, and back were covered with wounds and scars. His chest was full of bruises.”

Police continued to surround the family home and the cemetery shortly after midnight Tuesday, he said.

Ethnic rioting

Tursun, a member of the Uyghur ethnic minority and the father of a two-year-old, was among some 40 men from Qorghas detained around the time of deadly protests July 5 in the regional capital, Urumqi, villagers said.

The protests by Uyghurs, a largely Muslim Turkic people, followed alleged official mishandling of earlier ethnic clashes in far-away Guangdong province.

The July 5 protest sparked days of deadly rioting in Urumqi, pitting Uyghurs against majority Han Chinese and ending with a death toll of almost 200, by the government’s tally.

Tursun was detained July 6 in Urumqi. He was transferred to Ili on July 18 and Qorghas on July 23, he father said.

"If I had bribed the police officers, my son would probably be released," he said. "I considered selling my land to save my child, but his wife and mother were afraid a bribe would make him look guilty."

"Another boy in the same prison cell with my son was released after his family paid 30,000" yuan, or about U.S. $4,400, he said.

About 10 days ago, relatives said, Tursun—along with Pazilat Akbar, Rabigul, Eli Hesenjan, and more than 35 others—were transferred from Urumqi to the Qorghas county jail.

Uyghurs say they have long suffered ethnic discrimination, oppressive religious controls, and continued poverty and joblessness despite China's ambitious plans to develop its vast northwestern frontier.

Xinjiang is a strategically crucial vast desert territory that borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.

The region has abundant oil reserves and is China's largest natural gas-producing region.

Original reporting by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur service. Translation from the Uyghur by Zubeyre Shemshidin. Uyghur service director: Dolkun Kamberi. Written and produced for the Web in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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