An official list of Uyghur police officers who died last year in northwestern China’s troubled Xinjiang region has confirmed details of previously unacknowledged clashes with members of the mostly Muslim minority group, sources say.
The list, titled “Our Heroes” and published online on April 1 by China’s Ministry of Public Security, was taken down shortly after it became clear that many of those named had not been killed in the line of duty, but had died in traffic or drowning accidents or of heart attacks while under stress and in poor health.
However, one of those named was described as having been killed in a June 2015 clash in Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi) prefecture’s Kashgar city reported by RFA but unconfirmed by official Chinese sources, with two other officers also said to have died in connection with a previously unreported incident in November.
As many as 28 may have died following a knife and bomb attack by a group of ethnic Uyghurs on a police traffic checkpoint in Kashgar on June 22, 2015, sources in the region told RFA’s Uyghur Service in earlier reports.
Among those killed in the clash was Uyghur police officer Abdusattar Haji, 42, the MPS website said, providing details of the attack identical to those given in RFA reports and confirming the attack itself, which had previously gone unreported in Chinese media and had never been acknowledged by government officials.
The MPS list also named a Uyghur forensic specialist, Abduweli Abdukerim, who it said had died in November of a heart attack while examining a body, unidentified in the report, at a police station in Kasghar’s Tokkuztara (Gongliu) county.
Police officers and local officials contacted by RFA have now revealed that the previously unidentified body was that of Zemin township police chief Memet Sidiq, who had been stabbed while conducting a house-to-house check for “religious extremists.”
“The incident was never reported in the media or in any meetings,” police officer Tursun Weli told RFA, adding that following the knife attack on Sidiq, police officers killed five men in the house they had inspected.
“Some of them were friends of the attacker, and some were neighbors,” Weli said.
Eli Ibrahim, chief of Zemin township’s No. 15 village, said, “Memet Sidiq’s body was moved to my office just after the incident, and Abduweli Abdukerim examined his corpse.”
“I found him very depressed, because the condition of Memet Sidiq’s body was so horrifying,” he said.
Rights groups accuse Chinese authorities of heavy-handed rule in Xinjiang, including violent police raids on Uyghur households, restrictions on Islamic practices, and curbs on the culture and language of the Uyghur people.
China regularly vows to crack down on what it calls the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism in Xinjiang.
But experts outside China say Beijing has exaggerated the threat from Uyghur separatists, and that domestic policies are responsible for an upsurge in violence that has left hundreds dead since 2012.
Reported and translated by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.