Chinese authorities have rejected a request for a visit by the terminally ill mother of a webmaster for a popular Uyghur website who has been held incommunicado since his arrest in March, RFA’s Uyghur Service has learned.
Tursunjan Memet was one of at least five bloggers and website administrators arrested last year in a crackdown on popular Uyghur websites before the month-long Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.
Memet, an active blogger and one the chief administrators for the Misranim website, was detained on March 29 when authorities took him from his house in Korla (in Chinese, Kuerle), the capital city of Bayingholin in the Mongol Autonomous Prefecture of Xinjiang, his father told RFA.
Memet Qari told RFA that six plainclothes police came to their home, arrested his son, and confiscated some of his books and his desktop computer.
“When they left, they warned us: ‘Don’t say anything about the detention of Tursunjan. Don’t say anything to anybody, even your close relatives. Keep silent. Otherwise, it will not be good for your son and your family’,” he told RFA.
Since the arrest, the elder Memet and his wife have been unable to talk to their son, even though Tursunjan’s mother is terminally ill, he said.
“My wife, who is on her deathbed, told me that she wanted to speak with our son,” he said. “This is her final request. I am so sorry. I called several times and told them of my wife’s final request, but the Aksu police flatly refused to allow it.”
To Chinese authorities in Aksu, Tursunjan Memet is a criminal, he said.
“Tuyghun Juzhang, the deputy director of Aksu prefecture’s security bureau, told me without mercy: ‘Your son is a political prisoner. He is accused of the crime of instigating ethnic hatred and separatism. None of your family members, not even your sick wife, can meet or speak with your son until he is taken to trial’,” he told RFA.
Along with Memet, police also detained Ablimit Ghojabdulla, Omerjan Hesen, Ababekri Muhtar, and Akbarjan Eset in the crackdown.
Muhtar is the founder of the Misranim website and is a well-known social activist. Eset is the founder of the popular Uyghur website Baghdax.
Both were both detained by police before the Ramadan month that ran last year from June 6 to July 5. Muhtar was released later in the summer. Iit is unclear if Eset is still in custody.
Hesen was detained by Chinese police in Aksu prefecture in March 2016. A native of Aksu, he worked as journalist, writer, and translator at the radio and television station in Aksu and was an official in Aksu’s forestry bureau.
Hesen is well-known as a writer and social activist in Xinjiang’s Uyghur community.
On May 31, he was expelled from the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and removed from his position for “breaking party discipline.”
The party’s expulsion announcement accused Hesen of publishing essays attacking the CCP and the government’s ethnic and religious policies.
“In his writings, he distorted the history of Xinjiang in order to instigate ethnic hatred and attack China’s unity and territorial integrity,” the notice said.
Memet Qari told RFA that his son and Hesen are still being held in Aksu Prefecture’s central detention center.
“My son Tursunjan’s case is linked with Omerjan Hesen,” he said. ““The writer’s penname is ‘Bozqir,’ and he and my son have been held at the Aksu central detention center since last year.”
The elder Memet told RFA that the authorities “told me that my son has a close relationship with Omerjan Hesen.”
“They explained to me that my son had helped to publish a paper on the Misranim website written by Omerjan Hesen Bozqir,” he added. “According to their explanation, Omerjan Hesen’s paper instigated ethnic hatred and separatism.”
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 that 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 Eset Sulaiman for RFA's Uyghur Service. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.