At least 100 residents from the same small community in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region have been imprisoned by authorities, a security guard from the area said.
When RFA asked how Chinese authorities were treating the families of those who had been imprisoned, the security guard mentioned the number of jailed residents from Sheyih Mehelle hamlet in Ghulja (in Chinese, Yining) county.
The reasons for the imprisonment of the Uyghur residents are not known.
The guard also said that the government has provided aid to the families of the prisoners, including food, clothing and coal — 30 tons of which had recently been distributed to at least 100 households.
“The government has been taking care of them,” he said.
Sheyih Mehelle has a population of more than 700 people, the security guard said. It is part of Chuluqay village, which has more than 10,000 residents.
A Uyghur living in exile who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal from the Chinese government said it is not surprising that 14 percent of a Uyghur hamlet’s population is in prison.
The Uyghur, who hails from Ghulja’s Onyar village, said that in his family alone, three of his brothers were all imprisoned by the Chinese government, and that sources in the area told him between one to five people from each family in his old neighborhood had been jailed.
He estimated that the number of people imprisoned from the hamlet the village security guard mentioned could reach 200 based on what his sources told him.
Another security official in Sheyih Mehelle told RFA that four people from the Nesrulla family were in prison. Another official said six siblings from a different family there had been jailed.
China is believed to have held 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in the camps since 2017. Beijing has said that the camps are vocational training centers and has denied widespread and documented allegations that it has mistreated Muslims living in the region.
The United States and parliaments in other Western nations have declared that the repression of the Uyghurs amounts to genocide and crimes against humanity.
The U.S. has sanctioned Chinese officials linked to human rights abuses in Xinjiang, including mass incarceration, invasive surveillance and forced labor. The U.S. also has passed legislation banning imports from the Xinjiang region of China that lack proof they were not made with forced labor.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, on Thursday introduced the Uyghur Policy Act to increase U.S. support for the Uyghur diaspora in the United States and other countries, and to advocate for improving the conditions of Uyghurs suffering human rights abuses at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.
“The CCP is carrying out a disgusting campaign of genocide and human rights abuses committed against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups. The United States cannot be silent in the face of such horrific abuse,” Rubio said in a statement.
Rushan Abbas, executive director of the Campaign for Uyghurs, whose sister disappeared three years ago and is believed to be incarcerated in Xinjiang, welcomed Rubio’s legislation and called for its swift approval.
“I hope the U.S. government can pass this critical bill into law as soon as possible which would create a comprehensive strategy to raise international awareness of the genocide of Uyghurs, enable the U.S. State Department to respond to the genocide in East Turkistan more effectively, and hit back on the Chinese regime’s efforts to silence Uyghur advocates, as they did by taking my sister as hostage,” Abbas said in a statement.
East Turkestan is the Uyghurs’ preferred name for the region of Xinjiang, which shares borders with the fellow Turkic-speaking nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan that gained independence after the dissolution of the Soviet Union three decades ago.
Translated by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.