Authorities in Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi) prefecture, in northwest China’s Xinjiang region, are convicting ethnic Uyghur “political criminals” without trial and only notifying their families after sentencing them to prison, according to sources.
Since April, thousands of Uyghurs accused of harboring “extremist” and “politically incorrect” views have been detained in political re-education camps and prisons throughout Xinjiang, where members of the ethnic group complain of pervasive discrimination, religious repression, and cultural suppression under Chinese rule.
While Chinese authorities in Xinjiang regularly sentence “political criminals” to prison in closed trials in the region, without allowing their family members to attend, sources recently told RFA’s Uyghur Service that local People’s Courts were skipping hearings altogether in a bid to process the huge number of Uyghurs detained in recent months.
Instead, they said, courts are distributing verdict forms directly to local Public Security Bureaus, where police and officials fill in information about the accused and the terms of their sentence, before visiting his or her family and informing them about the outcome of the “trial.”
An officer at the Shaptul township police station in Kashgar’s Peyziwat (Jiashi) county cited official records from the Peyziwat People’s Court, saying that 46 people had been arrested within his jurisdiction since April, 30 of whom had been imprisoned.
Of those jailed, he told RFA, 26 had their verdicts “filled out by the village Political Law Committee,” which then visited family members to relay information about the sentences.
“All 26 people’s official court documents have been completed, but we have other forms for people that haven’t had the sentences written in yet,” said the officer, speaking on condition of anonymity.
According to the officer, the fields for names and sentences were left blank on the documents he received from the court, but the alleged criminal acts in violation of Chinese Criminal Law were already filled in.
“On each document, the reference number of the suspect and the article of the criminal law under which the suspect was charged are already completed,” he said.
“The form is used for people who are not dealt with in court, therefore the sentence isn’t written in.”
The officer said he had three more court documents to complete “as soon as the investigations into the suspects have concluded,” at which point he would “fill in each individual’s details and the length of their sentence, and then inform their family.”
He confirmed that he had the forms for the detainees’ court verdicts in hand, despite the fact that they had not yet been given sentences or tried.
“These three people are held in different re-education camps and we are still investigating them,” he said.
Abduwasip Omer, a resident of Saghan township in Kashgar’s Yengisar (Yingjisha) county, was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison without a court hearing, his brother Borhan told RFA, adding that Omer and several other detainees were taken to prison prior to their families being notified.
“My eldest brother was in one of the camps and I learned recently that he was given a 10-year prison sentence … [according to a court verdict issued] about 15 days ago,” he said.
“It was read out to us … [by] five people [who] came to inform us of the decision at our home.”
The people who informed his family of Omer’s sentencing “included township cadres” who told them they were visiting to “inform you of the decision from above,” before reading out the verdict.
“They also visited other families [in our township], reading out the verdicts to them,” Borhan said.
Most of the verdicts had been filled out by officials in charge of the township Political Law Committee and distributed by district secretaries to families, he added.
Officials in Hotan (Hetian) prefecture’s Qaraqash (Moyu) county recently told RFA that they had been ordered to send 40 percent of area residents to re-education camps, and said they were having trouble meeting the quota.
Authorities in Peyziwat’s Shaptul township have said they were informed at an online staff meeting in June that 80 percent of people arrested there were to be “severely punished,” or jailed.
Reports suggest similar orders have been given in other areas of the region, and that authorities are detaining as many Uyghurs as possible in re-education camps and jail, regardless of their age, prior service to the Communist Party, or the severity of the accusations against them.
Since Xinjiang party chief Chen Quanguo was appointed to his post in August last year, he has initiated several harsh policies targeting religious freedom in the region.
China regularly conducts “strike hard” campaigns in Xinjiang, including police raids on Uyghur households, restrictions on Islamic practices, and curbs on the culture and language of the Uyghur people, including videos and other material.
While China blames some Uyghurs for "terrorist" attacks, experts outside China say Beijing has exaggerated the threat from the Uyghurs and that repressive domestic policies are responsible for an upsurge in violence there that has left hundreds dead since 2009.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Alim Seytoff and Mamatjan Juma. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.