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Uyghur university student in Xinjiang arrested for ‘attempting to divide the country’

A Uyghur student who had attended university in southeastern China was arrested last December during an internship in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region and sentenced up to five years in prison, his family told RFA.

Chinese police arbitrarily arrested Zulyar Yasin, 25, at his parents’ home in Urumqi (in Chinese, Wulumuqi) on Dec. 14, said his aunt, Raziye Jalalidin, who now resides in the Netherlands.

“On May 30 of this year, I learned that my nephew, Zulyar Yasin, had been arrested,” she told RFA.

“In September 2014, he went to study economics at Istanbul University in Turkey, but he returned to Urumqi in 2016 after he was not able to adjust to life in Istanbul.”

The following year, Yasin took China’s national college entrance exam, receiving a high score and gaining admission to Fujian Agricultural and Forestry University in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian province on China’s southeastern coast, Jalalidin said.

“He returned to Urumqi in July 2021 and began his college internship in the city, but on Dec. 14, he was arrested by police at his home for no apparent reason,” his aunt said.

“He was arrested while he was an intern,” she said, adding that the police initially said Jalalidin would be returned home in two days.

“My older sister didn’t even have the right to ask why they arrested him,” she said.

Jalalidin said she learned from her relatives in Urumqi on May 30 that a Chinese government police officer called Yasin’s home on Feb. 14 and informed his parents that he had been sentenced to three to five years in prison on the charge of “attempting to divide the country.”

The Chinese government has targeted Yasin because he comes from a family of intellectuals, Jalalidin said.

“The Chinese government is only arresting our bright youth like my nephew because they are damn afraid of their own insecurities,” she said. “What was his crime? What is our crime? Our crime is just being Uyghur. In the eyes of this Chinese regime, our being Uyghur is our crime — nothing else.”

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.

“Will our talented young children be destroyed under this injustice?” Jalalidin asked. “Why can’t we live like other free people in democratic countries?”

“Why has the world been silent, even after declaring genocide?” she asked.

Abduweli Ayup, a Norway-based Uyghur rights activist who tracks missing and detained Uyghurs, said Chinese authorities are still continuing to abduct members of the mostly Muslim minority group.

They began targeting Uyghur students studying in mainland China in September 2021, he said.

Translated by RFA Uyghur. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.