Authorities in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) have arrested a prominent Uyghur scholar in a case believed linked to the publication of a book deemed “problematic” following its translation and release five years ago, Uyghur sources say.
Gheyret Abdurahman, the 52-year-old deputy head of the Linguistics Department at the Academy of Social Sciences of Xinjiang, was arrested in March and joins four other Academy members now in police custody, sources told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
Speaking to RFA, a staff member of the Academy confirmed Gheyret’s arrest, but declined to discuss details of the case, while a senior member of the Academy said that Gheyret was among a larger group taken into custody at the institute.
Other Academy members now held by police include Koresh Tahir, Shawket Ilahun, Abduqeyim, and Abdurazaq Sahin, with the dates of their arrests still unconfirmed, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
Gheyret’s arrest was linked to his translation of a novel, The Red Sorghum Clan, by Chinese Nobel Literature laureate Mo Yan, a source in the region told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity. The translation was published in 2013 by the Kashgar Publishing House, over 600 of whose titles are now considered politically sensitive by Chinese authorities.
At least 14 staff members of the publishing house located in the XUAR’s Kashgar city have also been arrested since last year, another source with ties to the region told RFA, also speaking on condition he not be named.
Several prominent intellectuals have gone missing from the XUAR in recent months and are believed detained in political re-education camps, where authorities have detained Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas throughout the region since April 2017.
Sources in the exile community have said the trend shows that Chinese authorities are “committing cultural genocide by attempting to eliminate the best and brightest Uyghur minds.”
While Beijing initially denied the existence of re-education camps, the Uyghur chairman of Xinjiang’s provincial government, Shohrat Zakir, told China’s official Xinhua news agency last month that the facilities are an effective tool to protect the country from terrorism and provide vocational training for Uyghurs.
Reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media organizations, however, has shown that those in the camps are detained against their will and subjected to political indoctrination, routinely face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers, and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities.
Adrian Zenz, a lecturer in social research methods at the Germany-based European School of Culture and Theology, has said that some 1.1 million people are or have been detained in the camps—equating to 10 to 11 percent of the adult Muslim population of the XUAR.
On Tuesday, Scott Busby, the deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the U.S. Department of State, said there are "at least 800,000 and possibly up to a couple of million" Uyghurs and others detained at re-education camps in the XUAR without charges, citing U.S. intelligence assessments.
Citing credible reports, U.S. lawmakers Marco Rubio and Chris Smith, who head the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China, recently called the situation in the XUAR "the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today."
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by RFA's Uyghur Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.