HONG KONG—Chinese authorities have barred a Japanese researcher studying the ethnic minority Uyghur people from entering the country, detaining her for two hours after her plane landed in Beijing and then sending her home, the researcher said.
Naoko Mizutani, a lecturer at Chuo University and author of a book about the Uyghur people, landed Feb. 27 at Beijing Capital Airport from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.
“I felt something was wrong when I boarded the airplane in Japan, because the plane was delayed for an hour before departure—we were informed that it was because Beijing Airport was busy,” she said in an interview.
“After we landed in Biejing, all the passengers were told not to move, and my name was called. Several security personnel boarded the plane as if they were about to detain a criminal.”
“They took away my passport and escorted me off the plane. After two hours in their custody, they informed me I wouldn’t be allowed to enter China.”
The move suggests that Chinese authorities remain unsettled after ethnic riots that erupted in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in July, in which nearly 200 people were killed by official count.
Link to Rebiya Kadeer
Security personnel told her it was China’s right to bar her from the country, she said, adding that perhaps her support to bring World Uyghur Congress leader Rebiya Kadeer—a former political prisoner and exile leader—to Japan in 2009 was the reason for her blacklisting.
“Maybe that’s the real reason,” Mizutani said.
“I’ve written many articles and commentaries that criticized China, especially on China’s anti-Japan policy, but it’s never affected my visit to China before.”
She said she had no regrets but had wanted to see the southern part of the Uyghur region, now China’s XUAR.
Most of its residents are mainly Muslim ethnic Uyghurs, many of whom have chafed for decades under Beijing’s rule.
“I don’t know why even the most dangerous people from the Japanese mafia society can freely visit China, but I, as a peace-loving researcher, am not allowed to enter.”
Crackdown in progress
Xinjiang has been the target of stepped-up security in recent weeks, with extra security personnel and tighter checks and searches around Lunar New Year festivities.
The mayor of the regional capital of Urumqi, where deadly ethnic riots killed nearly 200 people in July, announced a continuing security crackdown on supporters of independence for the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and its population of Muslim Uyghurs.
Urumqi mayor Jerla Isamudinhe in early February announced the crackdown on the “three forces” of terrorism, separatism, and extremism, saying the city faced an “arduous fight against separatism now and for years to come.”
Internet content from the region would also be kept under tight control, he said.
His speech came as Xinjiang authorities began a recruitment drive for 5,000 special police officers in the region to prevent recurrences of the Urumqi riots, in which 197 people were killed and 1,600 injured, by official count.
The new forces are charged with detecting terrorist plots and cutting contacts between domestic and overseas “hostile forces,” official media reported.
Original reporting by Medina for RFA’s Uyghur service. Uyghur service director: Dolkun Kamberi. Written in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.