Uyghur-Australian Reunited With Wife, Child After Three-year Campaign to Free Them From China

By Joshua Lipes
Uyghur-Australian Reunited With Wife, Child After Three-year Campaign to Free Them From China Sadam Abdusalam with his wife Nadila Wumaier and three-year-old son Lutfy at the airport in Sydney, Dec. 10, 2020.
Sadam Abdusalam's Twitter feed

A Uyghur Australian national has been reunited with his wife and child in Australia three years after he launched a campaign to free them from their home in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

Sadam Abdusalam welcomed his wife Nadila Wumaier and three-year-old son Lutfy, who he had never met before, on Thursday after they arrived on a flight to Sydney, which they were permitted to board following diplomatic negotiations.

Wumaier claims she was previously under house arrest in the XUAR, where authorities are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps as part of a campaign of extralegal detention launched in early 2017.

Abdusalam said he “never thought this day would come” in a tweet on Friday, thanking Australian government officials, his legal team, human rights groups, and journalists that helped to reunite him with his family.

He also thanked the Chinese officials “who decided to give my wife back her passport.”

“My dream is for all my fellow Uyghurs to be reunited with their families,” he wrote, referring to members of his ethnic group in the diaspora and in the XUAR whose family members have disappeared into the camp system or sent to prison for allegedly displaying “extremist” behavior.

Those not detained are subjected to near-constant high-tech surveillance and repressive policies that restrict their ability to use their own language, practice their religion, and honor their cultural traditions.

Chinese officials have said the camps are centers for vocational training. However, reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media outlets shows that detainees are mostly held against their will in cramped and unsanitary conditions, where they are forced to endure inhumane treatment and political indoctrination.

Years of separation

After living in Australia for a decade, Abdusalam traveled to China in 2016 to wed Wumaier before returning the following year for work. While waiting for a spousal visa to join her husband, Wumaier gave birth to their son Lutfy.

According to family members, Wumaier was detained soon after and released two weeks later, but her passport was confiscated by authorities.

The Australian government had lobbied China to allow Wumaier and Lufty to leave for years. Lufty was granted Australian citizenship following an appeal by Abdusalam.

Chinese authorities said in February that Abdusalam and Wumaier had not been formally married under Chinese law and that she did not wish to reunite with him. Soon after, however, Wumaier posted a photo to social media in which she held a timestamped sign saying that she wanted to “leave and be with my husband.”

Six months later, the couple received word that Wumaier and their son would be permitted to leave China.

Growing scrutiny

China has faced growing international scrutiny over reports of its camp system and other rights abuses in the XUAR.

In October, the U.K. and Germany led a group of 39 member states at the U.N. General Assembly—including the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, and several members of the European Union—in condemning China’s policies in the region.

The condemnation marked a significant increase in the number of countries willing to stand up to China’s threats of cutting off trade with nations that support such statements. A similar resolution last year received only 23 backers.

The statement came a week before China narrowly won a seat on the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, placing fourth out of five countries vying for four seats in the Asia-Pacific region.

China beat out only Saudi Arabia, which has faced its own share of condemnation over its rights record. Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Nepal also won seats in the race to represent Asia-Pacific countries on the 47-member council.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.


Dec 14, 2020 11:25 AM

China is evil.