Gulmira Imin, a former government employee and administrator of the Uyghur-language Salkin web site in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang, is now nearing the start of her eighth year of a life sentence in prison following her conviction on charges of ethnic separatism.
Imin, whose online writings frequently criticized Chinese government policies in the Uyghur homeland, was also convicted of having called on her web site for a July 5, 2009 demonstration in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi protesting a violent attack weeks earlier against Uyghur migrant workers in China’s eastern Guangdong province.
The Urumqi protest, initially peaceful, turned violent when Chinese security forces attacked Uyghur protesters, sparking ethnic clashes that left some 200 people, including many Han Chinese, dead by official count.
Thousands of Uyghurs vanished into Chinese custody in the police crackdown and roundups that followed, with many never heard from again.
Imin, then 31, was handed a life term on April 1, 2010 by the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court, and is now being held in the Xinjiang Women’s Prison (Xinjiang No. 2 Prison) in Urumqi.
Information on her current condition in prison is impossible to obtain.
Speaking in an interview with RFA’s Uyghur Service on Friday, Uyghur Human Rights Project Director Omer Kanat called on the world not to forget Imin as she languishes in jail.
“It is extremely important that Gulmira Imin not be forgotten,” Kanat said.
“As the Chinese government increases its efforts to ensure that accurate information about what is going on in East Turkestan is not revealed, we should make efforts to fight to ensure that brave journalists like Gulmira Imin remain in the public eye,” Kanat said, using the name preferred by many Uyghurs for their historic homeland.
“The Chinese government makes it impossible to obtain information about her condition in prison, and now tens of thousands more Uyghurs are being locked up,” he said.
“The international community must demand that the Chinese government increase the transparency of its rule in East Turkestan and release prisoners of conscience like Gulmira Imin.”
Speaking last year in Washington, Sandra Jolley, vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, called Imin “a woman in possession of a bright future—a future that was snatched from her on April 1, 2010 when a Chinese People’s Intermediate Court sentenced her to a lifetime in prison.”
“Gulmira’s only crime was her leadership in her Uyghur Muslim community,” Jolley said.
Reported by Mamatjan Juma and Alim Seytoff for RFA's Uyghur Service. Translated by Alim Seytoff. Written in English by Richard Finney.