Dozens of eminent Russian scholars in the field of medicine have called on China in an open letter to free a well-known Uyghur professor from prison, where he has been confined on suspicion of separatist activities, RFA has learned.
Halmurat Ghopur, president of the Xinjiang Food and Drug Administration’s Department of Inspection and Supervision in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), was taken into custody in November 2017, sources told RFA in an earlier report.
He is now being held under a sentence of death, suspended for two years, in an unknown location, according to Uyghur sources in the region and in exile.
In an open letter sent on July 29, but reported only recently by a Russian-language news service of Israel’s Channel 9, dozens of Russian academics called on Chinese President Xi Jinping to free Halmurat Ghopur from prison, calling him a valued colleague and friend.
“For more than 30 years, Professor Halmurat Ghopur has had scientific, medical, and scholarly ties to Russia,” said the letter signed by dozens of distinguished Russian specialists including Medical Sciences Professor D.A. Dubrovin and Doctor of Medical Sciences V.B. Vasiliev, among others.
“Our contact with him has been cut off since 2017, though, and the scientific and medical research we conducted with Professor Halmurat Ghopur for many years has ceased,” the letter’s signers said, voicing “deep concern” over the Uyghur scholar’s fate.
“We ask that you personally pardon Professor Halmurat Ghopur,” the writers said, directly addressing Xi Jinping. “We hope for his quick release.”
Differences with a Han Chinese colleague at the Xinjiang Medical University may have led Chinese authorities to target Halmurat. He had successfully developed a treatment for respiratory illnesses that combined Western and traditional Uyghur medicine but had also supported the right of students to wear Islamic clothing on campus amid a gathering crackdown on Uyghur culture.
He was later accused in an article published in 2017 by China University of Political Science and Law professor Wu Danhong of being a “two-faced official” who had failed to follow Communist Party guidelines by recruiting students who were “not fit to fill their positions” at the university hospital.
“Two-faced" is a term applied by the government to Uyghur cadres who pay lip service to Communist Party rule in the XUAR but secretly chafe against state policies repressing members of their ethnic group.
'Never involved in politics'
“[The authorities] have made him into a political person. He was never involved in any sort of politics,” Denis Dubrovin, a doctor of medical sciences and former professor at the Xinjiang Medical University, told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
“The two years that his death sentence was deferred have already passed,” Dubrovin said, adding that he and the letter’s other signers have heard that the sentence may be carried out soon.
“We have mobilized several times in an attempt to save him over the last two years. We’ve made formal requests to scholars, the foreign ministry, Chinese consulates, and the embassy in Moscow, and still we’ve had no response.”
“We are working to publish our open letter in as many Russian and international news outlets as possible,” he said.
Also speaking to RFA, Marat Asimov—an ethnic Uyghur doctor of medical sciences and professor at the Asfendiyarov Kazakh National Medical University in Almaty, Kazakhstan—said he had been moved by news of the Russian academics’ letter in support of Halmurat Ghopur, whom he had known since 1994 or 1995.
“Most of the Uyghurs’ issues are being made out [in press coverage] to have something to do with Islam,” Asimov said.
“But the real problem here has to do with [China’s] massacre of the Uyghurs, with the colonization of their land, and with the extraction of natural resources from that land. China wants to eliminate them as an ethnic group from their very roots,” he said.
Authorities in the XUAR are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps since April 2017.
Beijing describes its three-year-old network of camps as voluntary “vocational centers,” but RFA and other media outlets shows that detainees are mostly held against their will in poor conditions, where they are forced to endure inhumane treatment and political indoctrination.
The administration of U.S. President Trump has recently hit out at Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghurs, sanctioning Chinese officials and state-owned business entities deemed responsible for the camps and for programs of forced labor and population control measures including forced sterilizations and abortions.
Reported by Oyghan for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Elise Anderson. Written in English by Richard Finney.