Authorities in northwest China’s restive Xinjiang region have killed three people and jailed two others from an ethnic Uyghur family during a three-month operation targeting suspected terrorists, according to state media and a relative of one of those killed.
A verdict issued by the Purchaqchi township court in Hotan (in Chinese, Hetian) prefecture’s Hotan county in late March announced that Tursun Hoshur, 52, and his daughter Maynur Tursun, 24, were sentenced to 12 and eight years in prison, respectively, for harboring “terrorists,” state media reported.
The two had been recovering from wounds sustained after being fired on by authorities during a June 22, 2014 raid on their home in Dongjay village, which also saw Hoshur’s wife, 45-year-old Melikixan Obul, shot dead when she refused to open her door to police, the report said.
Additionally, two sons of the family—Turdimemet Tursun, 21, and Nurmet Tursun, 17—were among nine Uyghur “terror suspects” shot dead by police in a second incident related to the three-month operation in Purchaqchi on Aug. 1 last year, official media said.
Yasin Hoshur, the 62-year-old brother of Tursun Hoshur, who served as China’s ruling Communist Party secretary of Dongjay village and village chief for 32 years before retiring recently, told RFA’s Uyghur Service that the two incidents resulting in the death and jailing of his relatives had destroyed his family.
He said that after three days of a cordon around his home and that of his brother—located around 200 meters (650 feet) away—as well as several raids on his property, authorities had notified him that Tursun Hoshur was hiding a suspected terrorist and refusing to cooperate with police.
He was woken by the sound of gunfire near his home early on June 22, but was prevented from leaving by armed police.
“I heard about the wounding of my brother and his daughter and the killing of his wife four days after the incident from my neighbors, and I was able to inspect my brother’s home on the seventh day, after getting permission from the village security chief,” he said.
“The walls of the yard and rooms were knocked down, the windows smashed in, the bedding scattered, and blood was splattered everywhere in the bedroom, even under the bed.”
Yasin Hoshur said it appeared as if his brother and niece had tried to use the bedding to shield them under the bed as police fired at them through the window.
“Of course, this is only my assumption—nobody, except the authorities, knows who shot them [and how],” he said.
“Our village’s security chief knows, but he always changes his explanation according to orders or warnings he receives from the higher-level officials.”
Aftermath of raid
Ten days after the incident, Yasin Hoshur said police asked him to send family members to care for Tursun Hoshur and Maynur Tursun at the hospital, but soon after his son and daughter traveled there, they were told to return home, despite the pair having yet to fully recover.
“The police accompanied them in the hospital room, so neither my son nor my daughter was able to ask what happened inside the house that day,” he said.
“They only learned that Tursun Hoshur was shot three times in the legs, while Maynur was shot twice in the stomach, severing her intestines, which had to be repaired through surgery. She was still unable to sit up by the time my daughter left the hospital.”
Yasin Hoshur said he had been informed by the village security chief that Melikixan Obul had been shot by police because she resisted their order to allow them into the home, though his brother and niece had been “shot by mistake” while hiding under the bed, “though later he didn’t repeat that.”
He said that he and around 100 family members expected Tursun Hoshur and Maynur Tursun to be released when they attended their March trial, and that the two would be officially exonerated by the government.
“Instead, we learned that Tursun Hoshur would be sentenced to 12 years and Maynur Tursun to eight years in jail for sheltering a key terrorist suspect.”
The suspect was Abdukerim Abdurehim, one of five men alleged to have brutally attacked the party secretary of Purchaqchi’s Bashquduq village last year, and who stayed with the family for one night as a guest of Turdimemet Tursun and Nurmet Tursun, his former classmates. Details of that attack remain unclear.
Yasin Hoshur said that Tursun Hoshur’s two sons fled with Abdukerim Abdurehim when they heard police planned to raid the house in a search for the suspect, though he claimed that the family was unaware Abdurehim was wanted for alleged “terrorist activities.”
The sons were killed in a raid by police on Aug. 1, along with Abdurehim and six other men as they attempted to evade capture by authorities.
Hotan prefecture in southwestern Xinjiang has been a hotbed of violent stabbing and shooting incidents between ethnic, mostly Muslim Uyghurs and Chinese security forces, with attacks coming amid a string of assaults and bombings across the region, formally called the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
Late last month, authorities in Hotan’s Qaraqash county demolished the house of a Uyghur Muslim couple that had served as an underground school for Quranic studies, days after charging the homeowners and 23 others with “endangering state security” for teaching Islamic religious studies, sending their children to schools that offered such classes, or attending the classes themselves.
Earlier in March, police in Hotan had shot and killed as many as seven ethnic Uyghurs who had been “acting suspiciously” while they were at a restaurant, prompting a security clampdown.
In recent years, China has launched a series of “strike hard” campaigns in Xinjiang in the name of fighting separatism, religious extremism and terrorism.
The targets of these campaigns, the minority Turkic-speaking, Muslim Uyghurs, complain of pervasive ethnic discrimination, religious repression, and cultural suppression by China’s communist government.
Uyghurs say they chafe under strict police scrutiny and controls on their movements and violent clashes with authorities are not uncommon in the region.
Reported and translated by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.