Uyghur university lecturer serving 10-year sentence in Xinjiang for translations

Nurmemet Omer Uchqun was arrested on charges of separatism and promoting Western culture.
By Shohret Hoshur
2022.03.07
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Detained Uyghur intellectual Nurmamet Omer Uchqun in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of Husenjan

A Uyghur professor and translator has been serving a 10-year sentence in a prison in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region for separatism and promoting Western culture, a former Uyghur classmate of the man and a village official confirmed to RFA this month, more than four years after his detention.

Nurmemet Omer Uchqun, a literature teacher at the School of Philology at Xinjiang Normal University, was sentenced for “marginalizing national culture” and “attempting to split the country,” through his writings and translations, said Husenjan, his former classmate who now lives in Norway.

Uchqun had been detained by police in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi (in Chinese, Wulumuqi) in 2017 and later handed over to authorities in Hotan (Hetian) prefecture and transferred to Keriye Prison in Keriye (Yutian) county, after he had been sentenced to 10 years, said Husenjan, who got the information from sources inside China.

“My source in China told me in early 2019 that Nurmemet Omer Uchqun was ‘sick and being checked at the hospital,’ which means that he was arrested and being investigated,” Husenjan said.

“Recently, through [another] source, I learned that Nurmemet was sentenced to 10 years,” he said. “I heard that in 2017 he was interrogated by police about his writing and translation work.”

Uchqun–noted for his work in literature, translation, research and computer science–was reportedly abducted in early 2018.

He wrote a collection of articles titled “Open Your Eyes, Find Yourself Men” and translated books such as The Grand Chessboard, American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People into the Uyghur language.

His collection of articles was the basis for his arrest on separatism charges, while his translations of Western books and another collection of articles he wrote titled “If You Discover, the Dust Can Become Gold” were basis for the charges of promoting Western culture and marginalizing national culture, meaning Chinese culture.

RFA confirmed two years ago that Uchqun had been arrested but was unable to verify if he had been sentenced.

Relevant officials in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, have repeatedly refused to provide information on the detained scholar.

When RFA recently contacted Xinjiang Normal University to find out more information about Uchqun, officials refrained from answering questions.

Husenjan suggested that since Uchqun was originally from Yarbagh township in Qaraqash (Moyu) county, Hotan prefecture, we should contact relevant authorities there.

When contacted by RFA, the Chinese Communist Party secretary of the village where Uchqun’s parents live confirmed that the scholar had been sentenced to 10 years in prison and was serving his term in Keriye Prison.

“He [was sentenced] to 10 years [and is serving] in Keriye Prison,” the party secretary said.

Uchqun graduated from the Literature Department of Xinjiang University in 2009 and joined Xinjiang Normal University the same year, according to information obtained online. From 2011 to 2015, he studied for a doctoral degree at Shanghai Huadong Normal University and later was reemployed by Xinjiang Normal University.

Uchqun also had been a guest editor of the Communist Party-controlled magazine Xinjiang Civilization, which selected works by the region’s most influential writers on Uyghur culture, history, politics, and social development for publication.

RFA previously reported that the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Qurban Mamut, was abducted in 2017.

Chinese authorities have arrested numerous Uyghur intellectuals, prominent businessmen, and cultural and religious figures in Xinjiang for years as part of a campaign to control members of the mostly Muslim minority group and, purportedly, to prevent religious extremism and terrorist activities.

More than 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities are believed to have been held in a network of detention camps in Xinjiang since 2017. Beijing has said that the camps are vocational training centers and has denied widespread and documented allegations that it has mistreated Muslims living in in the region.

The purges are among the abusive and repressive Chinese government policies that have been determined by the United States and other countries as constituting genocide against the Uyghurs.

Translated by the Uyghur Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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