Uyghur Farmers Are Forced to Hunt For Fugitive Gunman

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Ahmet Hudaberdi is shown in a wanted poster, Aug. 20, 2015.
Ahmet Hudaberdi is shown in a wanted poster, Aug. 20, 2015.
East Turkestan Information Center

Authorities in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region have ordered ethnic Uyghur farmers to help hunt a young Uyghur man suspected of shooting a policeman, offering cash rewards for his capture and threatening to punish anyone caught aiding him, sources said.

Police in Hotan (in Chinese, Hetian) city’s Tosalla township on Aug. 20 issued a wanted notice for Ahmet Hudaberdi, 25, describing him only as an “escaped criminal,” though posts on social media said the man had fled police two days before after gunning down a state security official.

Local farmers and other Uyghur residents armed with clubs and sticks have now been pressed to join the search, local sources told RFA’s Uyghur Service this week.

“This guy committed a crime, killed a police officer, and escaped. But he has not been captured yet,” a township official told RFA.

“All farmers and government officials have now been mobilized,” he said.

“They have not captured him yet,” a local farmer told RFA. “We don’t know what kind of crime he committed, but they told us he is a criminal on the run and ordered us to help capture him.”

“Mostly it is the men who have been called to join in this campaign,” she said. “Farmers, government workers, all of them are there.”

“We were told that he was from Maja village, but we don’t know what he did,” she added.

Uyghur farmers have been ordered to join the search, “otherwise they will be punished,” she said.

“So everybody joined,” she said.

Cash rewards offered

Chinese authorities have announced that anyone providing a tip leading to Hudaberdi’s capture will receive a 100,000 (U.S. $15,575) yuan reward, adding that anyone found hiding the fugitive or helping him to escape will lose their land, another farmer said.

“If you capture him yourself, you will get 300,000 (U.S. $46,725) yuan,” she added.

"Since our men have been called to help in the search, we women must stay here to do the farm work. We have no choice."

Officers on duty at local police stations hung up the phone after RFA reporters identified themselves, while a Chinese resident of Hotan refused to comment on the search.

“Don’t call me, as our phone conversations will be monitored, and someone may find you and investigate you,” he said.

Xinjiang, which is home to millions of Turkic-speaking Uyghurs, has seen an upsurge in violence that has left hundreds dead since 2012, and which China has blamed on terrorists and Islamic insurgents seeking to establish an independent state.

But 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.

Reported by Jilil Kashgary for RFA’s Uyghur Service and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma and by Xiaoming Feng. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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