Authorities in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) have detained the highest-ranking Uyghur police officer in the regional capital, who was reviled for ruthlessly implementing Beijing’s repressive policies against members of his ethnic community, according to sources.
Kadir Memet, the deputy chief of the Urumqi police department, is believed to have been detained in recent months, fellow officers and Uyghurs living in exile told RFA’s Uyghur Service, although the reason for his arrest remains unclear.
A report by state media had referred to Memet as deputy chief of the Urumqi police department in April 2017, saying at the time that he had “expressed solidarity with the government’s fight against two-faced officials and other evil forces.” It was not immediately clear, however, whether Memet was still serving in the position at the time of his arrest, or whether he had retired.
RFA was first alerted to Memet’s arrest by a Uyghur source based in Turkey, who said he had been detained “three months ago,” without providing further details.
When asked about Memet’s case, officers who answered the phone at a unit of Urumqi’s State Security forces, known as the Guobao, and the Tengritagh (in Chinese, Tianshan) district police station told RFA to either make the request for information in person or to speak with higher level authorities.
But an officer at Urumqi’s Saybagh district police station, where Memet was formerly the deputy chief, told RFA that information about him amounted to “a state secret,” which prevented him from revealing “any details regarding when, where or how he was detained.”
“There is no one who doesn’t know about his case, but only high-ranking officials can provide answers,” he added.
A worker at the Urumqi Municipal Police Department’s Disciplinary Commission said that Memet is currently in detention, but suggested he had been arrested in late July.
“He has not been released yet,” he said, adding that he “cannot say whether he was detained in connection with being a two-faced official.”
Authorities in the XUAR regularly detain those they accuse of being “two-faced officials”—a term applied by the government to ethnic minority cadres or other officials who pay lip service to Communist Party rule, but secretly chafe against state policies repressing members of their ethnic group.
Uyghur sources in exile say cases of “two-faced officials” in the XUAR show that not even those Uyghurs who pledge allegiance to the state, and often are reviled for doing so, are safe from its policies against their ethnic group.
Sources outside of the XUAR told RFA that members of the Uyghur exile community were ecstatic over the news of Memet’s detention, which they said had “spread like wildfire.”
A Uyghur living in Istanbul, who declined to provide his real name for fear of reprisals against family members back in the XUAR, said that “everyone who heard the news welcomed his detention with joy.”
“Even those who were saddened by Nur Bekri’s detention were happy when it came to Memet’s detention,” Tursun said, referring to the Uyghur former Communist Party chairman of the XUAR who national prosecutors said had been arrested for graft in a statement released in April.
“I can say [Memet’s] hands were stained with Uyghur blood,” he added.
Omerjan Jamal, a police officer who once served under Memet, but now lives in exile in Sweden, called his former boss “irascible and ill-tempered,” but said he was “competent at his work and able to stand up to high-ranking Han Chinese officers.”
“Nevertheless, he used his strengths for the Chinese regime, not in defense of Uyghurs,” Jamal said.
“He was heartless in cracking down on Muslims and was promoted for such cruelty.”
A former colleague of Memet’s named Exmet Rozi, who now lives in Washington, said that Memet hadn’t climbed the ranks as the result of competency.
“He gained the trust of the Chinese by killing Uyghurs for them and bullying Uyghurs with the power he was given by the Chinese,” Rozi said.
“The Chinese first arrested Uyghur religious scholars, then Uyghur intellectuals and businessmen. Now they are arresting their own lackeys. From this, we can say that if there are Uyghurs who have not been detained, it’s simply because their time hasn’t come yet.”
According to Rozi, Memet was likely arrested “because he was on the wrong side of a power struggle, or because he had abused someone [important] who was promoted to higher position.”
Reports of Memet’s arrest came as the United Nations marked International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances calling the use by states of counter-terrorist activities as an excuse for breaching their obligations of particular concern.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.