Uyghur Youth Dies in Jail

Chinese authorities refuse the family permission to see the body following allegations of abuse.
2011-12-06
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An official document, dated 2010, requesting that Chinese authorities release Noor-ul-Islam Sherbaz to his father in Pakistan.
An official document, dated 2010, requesting that Chinese authorities release Noor-ul-Islam Sherbaz to his father in Pakistan.
Courtesy of Sherbaz Khan

A young Uyghur died in a Chinese jail in Xinjiang last month shortly after a visit from his mother, who reported signs of abuse, the young man’s father said.

“My son has died,” said Sherbaz Khan, a Pakistani, speaking in an interview with RFA. “Many, many Uyghur people are dying in Xinjiang.”

Noor-ul-Islam Sherbaz, then 17, was detained following ethnic disturbances in the regional capital Urumqi in July 2009, and was charged last year for what authorities said was his role in inciting the unrest.

A Chinese consular officer in Pakistan surnamed Li had assured him that his son was in good health and would be released in five to six months, said Khan, who was deported from Xinjiang into Pakistan on June 10, 2010.

Li also warned him not to speak to reporters about his son’s situation.

But a friend with connections to the Urumqi jail said that his son had been regularly beaten with electric batons.

“Many young Uyghur men and women are also badly beaten,” Khan said his contact told him. “They are beaten constantly.”

“They are given only two hardened steam buns with boiled water to eat each day. Their cells are cold and tiny, with 20-25 people put into spaces meant to hold 4-5.”

A last visit

On Nov. 13, Khan said, Chinese officials asked his wife—who lives in Xinjiang and whose younger sister is married to a high-ranking police officer—to come to the jail at 10:00 a.m. to visit her son.

She was allowed to see him for only 20-30 minutes, Khan said.

“Later, we learned that on that same day, at around 10:00 p.m., my son had died … His mother saw him in the morning, and in the night he was gone.”

“They said my son had died in the hospital,” Khan said. “I heard that they gave him a lethal injection.”

Khan said he instructed his wife not to take charge of their son’s body until he was able to come to Urumqi from Pakistan.

“I applied for a visa, but the Chinese embassy in Pakistan told me to wait until they had ‘news from the top.’ We waited for three days.”

“In the end, they insisted on burying him themselves. Police were everywhere, and they refused to let anybody see him.”

Though the Pakistani embassy in Beijing offered to arrange transportation and bring his son’s body to Pakistan, the Chinese authorities “did not agree,” Khan said.

“They knew that I would arrange a postmortem examination to determine the cause of death.”

“Now my son is dead,” Khan said. “My wife and I are now dead, too.”

Calls seeking comment from the Chinese consulate in Pakistan rang unanswered on Monday.

Dozens disappeared

Rights groups have expressed continuing concern over the whereabouts and treatment of large numbers of Uyghurs held by Chinese authorities following peaceful Uyghur protests that turned into deadly ethnic clashes in July 2009.

“Chinese security forces detained hundreds of people on suspicion of involvement in the protests,” New York-based Human Rights Watch in a 2009 report, We Are Afraid to Even Look for Them.

“Dozens of these detainees, and possibly many more, have since ‘disappeared’ without a trace,” Human Rights Watch said.

Speaking in an interview, Human Rights Watch Asia Advocacy Director Sophie Richardson said that since the report was released, “we have no further evidence that would suggest that those people have resurfaced and gone home.”

“And we have documented extensively the ill-treatment of Uyghurs in detention,” Richardson said.

“Torture has remained endemic, particularly in pre-trial detention, in China.”

Reported by Mamatjan Juma for RFA’s Uyghur service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma. Written in English by Richard Finney.

CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

CH. 3: KHMER | LAO | UYGHUR

CH. 4: TIBETAN

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