More than 40 Uyghurs were detained last week because they failed to show up for a prominent Communist Party member’s funeral in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region, RFA’s Uyghur Service has learned.
Included among the 41 people detained by authorities are local religious leaders from Oymanbaytoqay village of Ghulja (In Chinese, Yining) County including the Imam Enver Hesen and the Muezzin Ekber Nesirdin, local residents told RFA.
While local law-enforcement officials acknowledged they detained the Uyghurs, they said it was because they are religious extremists.
Tursun Bilal, a police officer of Araosteng Township who oversees Oymanbaytoqay village, told RFA that failure to show up at the funeral for a teacher a Chinese Communisst Party member surnamed Harun is a sure sign the 41 men are radicals.
A 'clear sign'
“They refused to attend the funeral ceremony of Mr. Harun despite being called and invited several times by Mr. Harun’s family,” Tursun Bilal told RFA. “That fact, obviously indicates their anger toward Mr. Harun and a lack of loyalty to the government. More importantly, it is a clear sign of religious extremism.”
Harun, 70, who died in the first week of February, was a retired teacher from Oymanbaytoqay Primary School, but he was known for his loyalty to the government and membership in the Chinese Communist Party.
Abdushukur Abdurazaq, Chief of Police Station of Araosteng Township, said the group was transferred to the county’s state security department.
He told RFA “the investigation is still continuing,” and cited Enver Hesen’s education and background as reasons for suspicion. Enver Hesen was born and went to school in Kashgar (Kashi), the westernmost city in China that lies near the border with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
“The government appointed him as Imam as our old Imam passed away, but we have closely watched his life because of his educational background,” Abdushukur Abdurazaq said.
Locals defended the men, saying they didn’t have anything against the late Harun.
“I know that the Imam Enver Hesen didn’t say anything bad about Mr. Harun,” said Oymanbaytoqay Village Chief Niyaz Emet. “He just simply went about his business as he was invited to the funeral, but the absence of the other people, who are usually socially active members of our village community, was seen as result of Enver Hesen’s provocation.”
Memet Eli, a veterinary surgeon in Araosteng Township, told RFA the men weren’t known to be radical.
“I know the 41 men as normal Muslim people,” he said. “They just practiced their religious beliefs by praying five times a day, but I have not seen and don’t believe they showed signs of extremism.”
Memet Eli said Enver Hesen called him several times about his sick cow.
“He did the treatment of his cow by fully following my diagnosis,” he explained. “I know that someone who is influenced by extremism is not calling a doctor about their cow.”
Village Chief Niyaz Emet said he doubts there's a link between the light turnout at the funeral and extremism.
“I don’t believe that there is link between participation at Mr. Harun’s funeral ceremony and the advocacy of Imam Enver Hesen to the community," he said. "That was regular course for the relationship between the party members of Chinese Communist Party and our community."
Reported and translated by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.