Uyghur publisher jailed for books on Uyghur independence, identity

Erkin Emet was arrested in July 2018 during a crackdown on writers and publishers.
By Shohret Hoshur for RFA Uyghur
2024.03.23
Uyghur publisher jailed for books on Uyghur independence, identity Erkin Emet was arrested and jailed for publishing 'Altun Kesh,' or 'Golden Shoes,' (R) by Halide Israel and marketing Zordun Sabir's 'Ana Yurt,' or 'Motherland.'
RFA graphic

A prominent Uyghur who published books about Uyghur cultural identity and China’s persecution of the Uyghurs has been sentenced to prison, according to a Norway-based foundation and officials in Xinjiang.

Erkin Emet, 65, on a list of detained intellectuals in Xinjiang compiled by Uyghur Hjelp Foundation based in Norway, was taken into custody in July 2018, according to the organization’s founder, Abduweli Ayup.

Emet’s family said authorities accused him of inciting ethnic separatism and that he is serving a prison term, according to a source in Kashgar, asking not to be identified for security reasons.

However, his whereabouts and the length of his sentence are unknown, the source said.

Through confidential channels, Ayup discovered that Emet was most likely arrested for his involvement in the publication or dissemination of two books in particular. 

The first was the novel “Altun Kesh,” or “Golden Shoes,” by Halide Israel, about the persecution of Uyghurs during China’s 1966-76 Cultural Revolution and the importance of holding onto Uyghur identity. 

Emet also sold copies of Zordun Sabir's “Ana Yurt,” or “Motherland,” which chronicles the Uyghur victory over Chinese nationalist forces in the early 1940s and the establishment of the second East Turkestan Republic, in existence from 1944 to 1949.

Crackdown on intellectuals

Emet was arrested during a crackdown known as “Hui Tou Kan,” or “Looking Back,” a police officer who works near the Xinjiang’s Health Publishing House in Urumqi, where Emet used to work, told Radio Free Asia.

At that time, Chinese authorities were detaining Uyghur intellectuals, including writers and publishers, in internment camps or prisons for producing works viewed as harboring separatist tendencies.

Material written or published by prominent Uyghurs was scrutinized, even though it had previously received government approval.

“During Hui Tou Kan, they investigated all previously published books,” said an official at Xinjiang’s Political Law Office in Urumqi, the region’s capital.   

The most problematic book related to his arrest was “Altun Kesh,” he said.

Another source said that his involvement in the sale of “Ana Yurt” was also behind his arrest.

Bookstore manager

Emet, who has two children and several grandchildren, first served as deputy director of the Kashgar branch of Xinhua Bookstore in the 1990s, according to Ayup, whose group is also known as Uyghuryar.

Emet was the first bookstore manager to order 5,000 copies of “Ana Yurt,” which sold out quickly, he said.

“He opened multiple large bookstores in different counties of Kashgar, expanded the Kashgar Xinhua Bookstore, and diversified its offers with different categories, which proved to be successful,” Ayup told RFA.

Emet was appointed director of the Kashgar Uyghur Publishing House at the end of 2010. 

There he published notable works, including Hojamuhemmed Muhammad’s eight volumes of poetry collections and was instrumental in getting Halide Israel’s “Kechmish,” or “Tales of the Past,” and “Altun Kesh” published, Ayup said. 

In May 2018, Emet moved to Urumqi to become director of Xinjiang’s Health Publishing House, where he worked with Qurban Mamut, a renowned retired Uyghur editor at the Uyghur Civilization Journal, according to Ayup. 

Two months later, Emet was arrested.

Mamut, father of RFA journalist Bahram Sintash, was arrested later and sentenced to 15 years in prison, Ayup said.

Translated by RFA Uyghur. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.

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