Chinese authorities have rejected a request for medical treatment by an ethnic Uyghur who was jailed after being forcibly repatriated from Laos, his wife said, despite the man’s worsening health condition.
Memet Eli Rozi, 34 has developed a serious infection after receiving surgery in 2009, his wife Gulbahar Sadiq, 28, told RFA in a phone interview on Monday.
Memet is currently being held in the Kashgar Prefectural Jail in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on charges of having allegedly participated in July 2009 ethnic riots in the capital Urumqi.
He has been in prison since he was repatriated in March 2010, but apparently has not been tried in court.
“My husband is now at the crossroads of life or death,” she said. “I want to call on international human rights organizations to do something to help my husband.”
“Two weeks ago I received a call from an unknown caller who identified himself as a police officer and asked for 7,500 yuan (U.S. $1,140) to remove pieces of metal from my husband’s arm,” Gulbahar said.
“Last week I traveled to Kashgar to confirm the situation. The police told me that nobody had tried to reach me, but they confirmed that my husband had applied for surgery.”
Gulbahar had called RFA nearly two months earlier expressing concern about her husband’s health condition. At the time, Memet had still not recovered from having three metal plates inserted into his arm by surgeons following a traffic accident he suffered before fleeing to Southeast Asia in late 2009.
"The metal plates should have been removed in February last year. According to the doctor, if they are not taken out on time, not only his arm, but his life could be in danger," she said. “He is categorized as having a sixth degree of disability by the related departments of China.”
Refusal of surgery
Abdurehimjan, a guard at the Kashgar Prefectural Jail, confirmed by telephone that Memet’s health had worsened since he last spoke with him three months earlier.
“My colleagues and I reported his health condition and request for surgery several times to our bosses. We don’t know what they are thinking,” he said.
“I know that he is still in his cell and has never been released for surgery. His cellmates informed us that Memet hasn’t been able to sleep for the past couple of weeks.”
“Usually we do not allow any medical treatment outside [of the prison] before a trial is carried out.”
He Xiaoye, a former chief of the Kashgar jail who recently took a position in a different department, also confirmed in a telephone interview that Memet’s health had reached a critical situation.
“I did what I was supposed to do—I’ve already submitted a report of his health condition and his request to our related department. So far I have not received any order from anyone for his release or to take him to the hospital.”
He said Memet’s case was extremely sensitive because he had been arrested by anti-terror and state security police, adding that he would be unable to provide any further information about it, even if he were still acting chief of the prison.
Memet was one of 22 Uyghurs who fled to Cambodia and sought asylum in the country to avoid persecution in China.
The Cambodian government expelled 20 of them to China on Dec. 19, 2009 despite pleas from the U.N. refugee agency. Another Uyghur from the group resettled in a third country.
While his compatriots were held by Cambodian authorities awaiting repatriation, Memet fled to Laos, where he asked his wife and five children to join him from Guangzhou city in southern China.
They were apprehended by Laotian police and deported to China on the day that they arrived in Laos, in March last year, according to an earlier report by Gulbahar.
Chinese authorities sent her and the children to her hometown of Ghulja, where she currently living, and sent Memet to jail in Kashgar.
Information about the fate of the Uyghurs who were forcibly repatriated to China from Cambodia is scant, but according to interviews conducted by RFA, all of them are being held at the Kashgar Prefectural Jail except for one woman and two children and none have yet stood trial.
Exiled Uyghur activist and president of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress Rebiya Kadeer called China’s treatment of the repatriated Uyghurs “inhumane” and “a form of torture.”
“China has an obligation to follow international standards of law. We call on the international community to immediately … urge China to allow Memet Eli Rozi the treatment needed to save his life,” she said.
Millions of Uyghurs—a distinct, Turkic minority who are predominantly Muslim—populate Central Asia and the Xinjiang region.
Ethnic tensions between Uyghurs and majority Han Chinese settlers have simmered for years, and erupted in riots in July 2009 that left some 200 people dead, according to the Chinese government’s tally.
Uyghurs say they have long suffered ethnic discrimination, oppressive religious controls, and continued poverty and joblessness despite China's ambitious plans to develop its vast northwestern frontier.
Chinese authorities blame Uyghur separatists for a series of deadly attacks in recent years and accuse one group in particular of maintaining links to the al-Qaeda terrorist network.
Reported and translated by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.