Uyghur Woman Missing Three Years After Being Sent Back From Vietnam

uyghur-rizwangul-062617.jpg Rizwangul Tursun is shown in an undated photo.
Photo sent by an RFA listener

A young Uyghur woman deported from Vietnam to China after trying to join her family in exile has vanished in police custody, her father says, breaking a three-year silence to ask for information on her whereabouts and condition.

Rizwangul Tursun, now 21, was part of a group of 16 Chinese citizens, including four women and two children, sent back on April 18, 2014, following their arrest at Vietnam’s Bac Phong Sinh border crossing for trying to enter the country illegally, sources said in earlier report.

She had been trying to join her father, Tursun Semet, who had successfully escaped with six family members into Turkey from Kargilik county in the Kashgar prefecture of northwestern China’s Xinjiang region the year before.

“I have not learned anything about the fate of my daughter since the day she was deported to China,” Tursun told RFA’s Uyghur Service, speaking from Istanbul, Turkey.

“So far, none of my relatives in my hometown Kargilik have been informed of any charges against her. Nor have any of my friends or neighbors.”

Tursun said he had at first not pressed publicly for information on his daughter’s whereabouts for fear of prejudicing her case by speaking from outside China—a sensitive political concern for Chinese authorities fearful of foreign support for Uyghur separatist movements.

“But now, enough is enough,” he said.

“This is a heavy burden to bear for a father living in exile,” Tursun said. “At this point, and as a last resort, I would like to ask for the help of the international community in getting information about my daughter.”

“I want to know where she is being held, and on what charges,” he said.

A risky path

Reached for comment, Kargilik county police declined to provide details of Rizwangul’s case, adding, “We are not allowed to provide any information without permission from departments at a higher level.”

Officials at the the Kashgar prefecture police department meanwhile hung up the phone on learning they were speaking to a reporter interested in Rizwangul’s case.

Fired from his job at a Chinese bank after the birth of his third child, in violation of China’s family planning laws, Tursun left Kargilik and went to Hotan prefecture, and later moved to Xinjiang’s regional capital Urumchi.

“I had no registration papers for my three children. As a result, I lived and worked underground,” he said.

“We were unable to live freely and safely in our own country, and that is why I was forced to take the risky path of leaving the country without legal documents.”

Tursun said that he has cried many times during the last three years over worries for his daughter’s fate, being careful to hide his feelings from his children and his wife.

“This hits a helpless father very hard,” he said. “I wouldn’t wish for anyone to go through the pain I feel.”

Reported and translated for RFA’s Uyghur Service by Shohret Hoshur. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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