Police in Xinjiang severely assaulted a minority Uyghur youth until he became unconscious following a quarrel between him and a Han Chinese policeman, highlighting long-simmering ethnic tensions in the troubled northwestern region of China.
Njiant Semet, 21, has been admitted to hospital in critical condition following the incident on March 23 in western Atush city, his father Semet Yasin said.
“I saw him in hospital, my son was unconscious,” Yasin told RFA’s Uyghur Service, recollecting the time when he first saw Semet following the beatings. “He was bleeding in his nose and mouth, and his eyes were sunken.”
Yasin said Semet, who worked at the Atush city administration office, was initially assaulted by seven to eight policemen at a marketplace after he argued with the Han Chinese policeman who had snatched his motorcycle keys.
When people at the marketplace protested, Semen was released and returned home—only to be instructed to surrender himself to police immediately for further investigations.
Yasin said when he took Semet to a police station, his son was handcuffed and dragged away by five police SWAT team members who then kicked and further assaulted him before bundling him in a vehicle and taking him away.
Four hours later, Yasin was informed that his son was near death and had been rushed to hospital by ambulance.
“I fainted when I first saw him in such a pathetic state,” Yasin said. “When I regained consciousness, I was further astonished by demands by doctors that I pay upfront for my son’s medical treatment, instead of them immediately attending to him,” he said.
Furious by the demands, Yasin said his relatives and others carted Semet away in his critical condition to protest in front of government buildings, demanding justice from officials.
Following assurances by the city police station chief Tursun Memet and Semet’s employer that they would bear the treatment expenses, Yasin said his son was readmitted to hospital.
Memet said the case was beyond his jurisdiction, as the assaults on Semet at the marketplace and the police station were allegedly committed by members of the police Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team.
“We cannot deal with cases in which the SWAT team is involved,” he said.
He said he was informed that Semet did not cooperate with the SWAT team in their investigations and “I am not aware if the police used excessive force” on him.
Memet also told Yasin that his son would be interviewed after he fully recovered from the ordeal.
“We cannot say anything about whether the police are guilty, only the higher officials can do something about it.”
Yasin said that he had gone to the Atush city police department disciplinary committee to seek help but was rebuffed.
“They told me, ‘First you should treat your son and make him well, then we’ll look into the matter,” he said.
When he sought further explanation, “they just pushed me out of the office.”
Semet’s plight underscored the rights abuses faced by Uyghurs in Xinjiang, some Uyghur rights groups say.
Many Uyghurs complain that they are subject to political, cultural, and religious repression for opposing Chinese rule in the resource-rich region, blaming an influx of Han Chinese who they say have deprived them of employment and other opportunities.
China has intensified a sweeping security crackdown in Xinjiang, where according to official figures about 100 people, mostly Uyghurs, are believed to have been killed over the past year for alleged links to terrorism and separatism.
Rights groups and experts say Beijing exaggerates the terrorism threat to take the heat off domestic policies that cause unrest or to justify the authorities' use of force against Uyghurs.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.