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Uyghur who studied in Turkey arrested by police in Xinjiang, sources say

A Uyghur scholar who studied in Turkey and worked for an international company in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou was arrested by authorities from his hometown Urumqi, a local police officer and Uyghurs with knowledge of the situation said.

Subi Tursun, now 29, went to Turkey in 2010 to attend college and stayed there for work after completing his studies, a Uyghur from Urumqi who now lives in exile in Turkey and is friends with the man’s father told RFA.

In autumn 2021, Tursun, who had not become a Turkish citizen, was transferred to the company’s branch in Guangzhou, said the source, who declined to be identified for safety reasons.

The source said he received news that Tursun had been abducted by police in Urumqi on July 1 as one of the “suspects who fell out of the net.”

“My close friend’s son was arrested on July 1 this year,” he told RFA, adding that Tursun was one of three young Uyghur men who has been arrested by the Chinese in recent weeks.

“Subi Tursun did not become a Turkish citizen. He used to live with a resident permit in Turkey,” the source said.

The police officer, who did not provide his name, did not give a clear account of whether police from the Ghalibiyet (in Chinese, Shengli) Police Station arrested Tursun in Guangzhou or when he had arrived in Urumqi (Wulumuqi) to visit his family. He also did not give the reason for his arrest.

“I can’t give you these details on the phone, you know,” the police officer told RFA. “If you want to know more details about this case, you should try to come to the police station and do it through the right channels.”

Chinese authorities have targeted and arrested Uyghur scholars, intellectuals, businessmen, and cultural and religious figures in Xinjiang for years as part of a campaign to monitor, control and assimilate members of the predominantly Muslim minority group.

Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in Xinjiang have been subjected to severe human rights abuses, torture and forced labor, as well as the eradication of their linguistic, cultural and religious traditions in what the United States and several Western parliaments have called genocide and crimes against humanity.

As many as 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 Xinjiang.

Uyghurs who live in exile have reported to RFA on relatives and former neighbors in Xinjiang who continue to be taken away by police in nighttime raids.

Norway-based Uyghur Hjelp, a rights organization that tracks arrested Uyghurs in Xinjiang, also recounted the same basic details of Tursun’s arrest.

Abduweli Ayup, the organization’s founder, said Tursun went to Turkey in 2010 to attend college and graduated in 2016 from a university in the capital Istanbul. He then went to work for an international company there.

Turkey is one of 26 countries that Chinese authorities monitor to determine if any Uyghurs have traveled there, according to Chinese sources.

In the past, RFA reported that not only Uyghurs of Chinese citizenship who returned from Turkey but also Uyghurs with Turkish citizenship have been arrested and sentenced to prison in Xinjiang.

Tursun was transferred to Guangzhou in autumn 2021 and later ended up in the Pulmonary Hospital in Urumqi, where police arrested him, Abduweli Ayup said.

“Almost a year later, this July, he was arrested at his residence in Urumqi by the Chinese police,” he said, adding that it is not clear whether Tursun went to Urumqi on his own or if he was given a security guarantee by his company to go there.

Sources in Xinjiang informed Abduweli Ayup that officers from the Ghalibiyet Police Station in Urumqi had arrested Tursun.

Subi Tursun was a college roommate of Zulyar Yasin, a student at the Fujian Forestry University, when they both were in Turkey, he said.

Chinese authorities may have arrested Tursun because of his connection to Yasin, who was arrested earlier this year by police, he said.

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