A prominent Uyghur poet has been arrested and sent to a re-education camp for her involvement in editing a novel that the Chinese government has taken issue with.
RFA’s Uyghur Service received an anonymous tip from a listener that revealed that Chimengul Awut and 13 others who worked at the Kashgar Publishing House have been sent to the camps since last year.
Following an investigation by RFA, it has been confirmed that Chimengul is being held for her involvement in editing Golden Shoes, a 2015 novel by well-known Uyghur writer Halide Isra’il.
RFA contacted police stations in the Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi) area. The first, the No. 2 Police Station, denied any knowledge of the situation and hung up when pressed further.
The second, Nezerban Police Station, denied involvement in the arrest but referred RFA to the Dong Hu Police Station, which has jurisdiction over the Kashgar publishing house.
That station then confirmed that that Chimengul had been arrested in July, and referred RFA to the Kashgar judiciary for more details.
A staff member of the judiciary said the poet had been taken to a re-education camp, and that her case is still under investigation, and also confirmed she was in detention for editing Golden Shoes.
RFA was unable to discover which camp is currently holding Chimengul.
According to information posted on the website of exiled Uyghur activist Aziz Isa Elkun, Chimengul gained fame through poems like "Flower of Revenge,” “Stone Leaves,” “The Road of No Return,” and her epic "The Other Side of The Shor River," which won the 14th Hantengri Literature award.
The Chinese government in the past had celebrated Chimengul’s accomplishments. She was given an award for being one of the 10 most famous female writers in Xinjiang during the first Women’s Literature Conference in 2004. Her poem, “The Road of no Return” received the Tulpar Literature Award during a ceremony held in November 2008.
Born in Kashgar in 1973, Chimengul completed her degree at Kashgar Normal University in 1996, and she had been working as an editor at the Kashgar Publishing House where she was arrested in July.
Beginning in April 2017, Uyghurs accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas have been jailed or detained in re-education camps throughout the XUAR, where members of the ethnic group have long complained of pervasive discrimination, religious repression, and cultural suppression under Chinese rule.
While Beijing initially denied the existence of re-education camps, the Uyghur chairman of Xinjiang’s provincial government, Shohrat Zakir, told China’s official Xinhua news agency last month that the facilities are an effective tool to protect the country from terrorism and provide vocational training for Uyghurs.
Reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media organizations, however, has shown that those in the camps are detained against their will and subjected to political indoctrination, routinely face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers, and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Eugene Whong.