Neighbors and teachers are concerned over the fate of five ethnic Uyghur children who are believed injured and among those detained by police in China's troubled Xinjiang region following deadly clashes last week.
At least one of the children is a student at the only elementary school in Mukula village in the southern city of Hotan, where the violence occurred last Wednesday in which seven Uyghurs were shot dead in a confrontation with police.
"We missed a student for five days. His name is Memet Ablikim, and he is nine years old and a third grade student," Mukula Village Elementary School director Abdumijit Yasin told RFA late Sunday.
He said he was concerned about Ablikim's safety amid speculations that he might have been seriously injured in the shootout.
"Some people says he has been seriously injured by a bullet, which hit him accidentally in the incident. Some people say he was slightly injured."
"Three days after his disappearance, I went to his house to meet with his family, but I was not able to meet his parents or even their relatives because all of them have been detained over investigations into the incident,” Yasin said.
He said he was not sure whether the other four children were also from his school, which had 1,839 pupils.
The clashes occurred in Hotan's Pishan county when a "terrorist gang" took two hostages, the Xinjiang regional Communist Party propaganda office said. The county's deputy police chief, Adil Abduveli, was stabbed to death in the incident, according to police sources.
Beijing has often said that its primary terrorism threat comes from the Xinjiang region, where Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim people, resent Chinese rule and controls on their religion, culture, and language.
Ablikim and the other four children were believed to be with the group of seven who were killed as they were trying to flee China into Pakistan but apparently got lost along the way, according to state media reports. Residents alerted police when the group sought directions.
Pishan county lies on the southern edge of the vast Taklamakan desert near the border with India and Pakistan.
Cheng Xianglong, a police officer at nearby Keliang village, said a teenager, believed to be 17 years old, was seriously injured in the incident.
“Our chief just came from a meeting about the incident held by the county police department and, according to my chief, a 17 year old boy has been shot accidentally. He was thought to be an adult in the tense situation," Cheng said.
According to him, all the five children were being held in the county police department. He did not answer a question on why the children had not been brought to hospital.
School director Yasin said that when he went to the village headquarters to lodge a report over the student's disappearance, village chief Minever Ehmet confirmed that the five children were being held by police.
Ehmet also said that "detailed information" on the incident could be obtained only after the investigations concluded, according to Yasin.
"Through this conversation, I have been sure that one of the five children is our student and that he is Memet Ablikim.”
Village officials had earlier identified Ablikim Abduqadir, who could be Memet's father, among the dead.
Yasin said that when he visited the village police station to inquire about Memet Ablikim’s situation, the police chief told him he had no authority to disclose any information about the children.
The police officer who was killed in the incident is being hailed as a hero among mostly Han Chinese in the village as part of a county-wide campaign to pay tribute to his "exemplary" behavior.
“Now, we are busy studying and teaching Adil Abduveli's heroic biography in school. He was an exemplary [Chinese Communist] party member his entire life,” a middle school teacher said.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur service. Translated by Shohret Hoshur. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.