Detained Uyghur student awaits outcome of probe into her case in Xinjiang

Kamile Wayit was apprehended after posting a video about the 'white paper' protests across China.
By Shohret Hoshur for RFA Uyghur
Detained Uyghur student awaits outcome of probe into her case in Xinjiang Kamile Wayit, a 19-year-old college student at a university in China’s Henan province, was detained by police in December after returning to Xinjiang on winter break.
Photo courtesy of Kewser Wayit

A Uyghur college student who supported the “white paper” protests in China is being detained in Xinjiang pending an investigation into her communication with her brother who lives in the United States, a state security agent said.

Kamile Wayit, a 19-year-old preschool education major at a university in China’s Henan province, was detained in December after posting a video about November’s “white paper” protests across China.

When she returned to her home in Atush, the capital of Xinjiang’s Kizilsu Kirghiz Autonomous Prefecture, for winter break, city police apprehended her, her brother Kewser Wayit told Radio Free Asia in an earlier report.

She was one of dozens of young people around China detained in relation to the protests sparked by a fatal lockdown fire in an apartment building in Xinjiang’s regional capital Urumqi that killed about 40 Uyghurs.

The demonstrators also opposed the rolling lockdowns, mass surveillance and compulsory testing under China’s zero-COVID policy, with some holding up blank sheets of printer paper and others calling on President Xi Jinping to step down.

Authorities now are reviewing Wayit’s case for potential prosecution, said a State Security Bureau police officer in Atush, adding that she was apprehended for communicating with her brother who lives in the United States, but also related to her posting on TikTok about the fire in Urumqi.

“The State Security Bureau detained her,” the agent said. “After her case reaches the prosecutor’s office, her lawyer can review her case, [which is] related to state security [and is] vastly different from other social cases.”

The agent also expressed some uncertainty over the crime Wayit would be charged with.

“I don’t know what her real crime was” or what relevant organizations determined her crime to be based upon, she said. 

Arrest ‘echoes’ suffering of many others

The agent said she didn’t know exactly how long Wayit would be held at the national security detention center, but that once the prosecutor’s office reviewed her case, it would be submitted to the court for trial.

“It may take two to three months for her case to reach the prosecutor’s office, and then they will inform the accused’s family about inviting lawyers to defend her rights, or the government will appoint a lawyer for her free of charge,” she said.

The state security police officer suggested that RFA contact Hawagul, an official at the Bureau of Justice in Atush, for information, but she was out of the office.

Wayit’s detention has raised concern among some American institutions that have publicly called attention to her case in recent weeks. 

The editorial board of "The Tufts Daily," the student newspaper at Tufts University near Boston published an opinion piece on Wayit, whose brother is a mechanical engineering graduate student at the institution. 

Kamile Wayit’s arrest “echoes the stories of millions of Uyghurs who have suffered years of oppression from the Chinese Communist Party,” the April 12 editorial said. 

It went on to say that advocacy for the detained Uyghur could include reaching out to officials in powerful institutions, signing petitions and connecting with local Uyghur organizations. 

“In addition to being aware of the atrocities taking place throughout the world, there is a responsibility for those with the privilege of freedom to support those within our community and beyond who suffer from systems of injustice,” the editorial said.  

On April 20, the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor  tweeted that Wayit would not be spending the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, with loved ones because of her detention. 

“We are concerned by her detention by the People’s Republic of China, and we call on the PRC to ensure respect for her human rights and fundamental freedoms, including all fair trial guarantees, and to immediately and unconditionally release all unjustly detained persons,” the tweet said.

Translated by RFA Uyghur. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.


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