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Uyghur lecturer sentenced to 13 years, allegedly for writings, foreign connections

A Uyghur academic who studied in Germany has been sentenced to 13 years in prison in northwestern China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, according to a security officer at a university where the man worked.

The officer who spoke with RFA did not give the reason for the imprisonment of Ababekri Abdureshid, a lecturer at Xinjiang Normal University in Urumqi (in Chinese, Wulumuqi).

“He was sentenced for 13 years in prison, I believe,” the security officer said, adding that Abdureshid’s family would know the reasons behind his arrest and imprisonment.

“We don’t know anything about this man’s case,” he said.

The scholar, who studied for a year as a visiting scholar in Germany in 2012, was apprehended in early 2018 after returning to Xinjiang, according to his friend and former colleague, Husenjan, who now lives in exile in Norway.

Husenjan said he heard through social media from sources in Xinjiang that Abdureshid had been sentenced.

“I got the news from a very close colleague of Ababekri Abdureshid that he was sentenced to over 10 years in prison,” Husenjan told RFA. “[He] published academic articles on Uyghur culture and literature in both regional and national magazines.”

Abdureshid, a university lecturer on philology, the study of languages, faced a difficult choice between staying in Germany or returning to Xinjiang. He decided to return home even though Uyghur higher education had been deteriorating, Husenjan said.

When RFA contacted officials at Xinjiang’s Education Bureau for information about Abdureshid’s incarceration, they suggested calling judicial authorities.

In an earlier report, RFA confirmed Abdureshid, who had been missing since 2018, was in captivity, although it was unknown whether he had been sentenced to prison.

Abdureshid was born in 1981 in Qaraqash (Moyu) county, Hotan (Hetian) prefecture, the second-largest county in Xinjiang by population with more than half a million Uyghurs. He was admitted to the Xinjiang University in 2006 to pursue a master’s degree in modern Uyghur literature.

From 2009 to 2012, Abdureshid studied for a doctorate at Minzu University of China in Beijing. During this time, he was a visiting scholar in Germany for a year.

While in Germany, Abdureshid once visited Turkey and met with colleagues there to exchange views on research topics, according to Husenjan, who added that the scholar’s connections to colleagues and friends in Germany and Turkey were a further reason for his detention by authorities in Xinjiang.

Officials at Xinjiang Normal University have consistently refused to comment on Abdureshid’s imprisonment when contacted by RFA.

But a Chinese judicial official in Korla (Kuerle), capital of Bayin’gholin Mongol (Bayinguoleng Menggu) Autonomous Prefecture, told RFA that the Chinese government had sent people who returned from studies in foreign countries to “re-education centers.”

After he had returned to Xinjiang, Abdureshid married and began working at the university in 2013. He was interrogated by Chinese police multiple times for refusing to drink alcohol.

Chinese authorities have arrested numerous Uyghur intellectuals, businessmen, and cultural and religious figures in Xinjiang as part of a campaign to control members of the mostly Muslim minority group and, purportedly, to prevent religious extremism and terrorist activities.

More than 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities are believed to have been held in a network of detention camps in Xinjiang 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 in the region.

The purges are among the abusive and repressive Chinese government policies that have been determined by the United States and some legislatures of Western countries as constituting genocide and crimes against humanity against the Uyghurs.

Translated by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.