Police say Uyghur man has been serving 15-year sentence since 2017


Friends haven’t heard from Abduqahar Ebeydulla since he was arrested at his home in southern Xinjiang.

Police say Uyghur man has been serving 15-year sentence since 2017

Abduqahar Ebeydulla went missing during a crackdown on Uyghurs in 2017 in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region.

A young Uyghur businessman who was reportedly arrested in 2016 on vague separatist charges has been serving a 15-year prison sentence since 2017 for illegal religious activities, a police officer in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province confirmed to Radio Free Asia.

Abduqahar Ebeydulla’s case was mentioned in a Agence France-Presse article that reported on police records obtained by researcher and Xinjiang region expert Adrian Zenz. 

The records indicated that up to half of adult men in four Uyghur-majority villages in Yarkant County in Xinjiang were rounded up in 2017, when the Chinese government began detaining Uyghurs in the province under what it called an anti-terrorism policy. 

Earlier this month, AFP reporters visited some of the homes identified in Zenz’s research as the residences of Uyghurs gathered up by Chinese authorities. 

At Ebeydulla’s single-story home in Bostan village, the reporters saw fresh-looking straw, heard the sounds of livestock and found locked, high metal doors.

A police officer in nearby Arslanbagh village confirmed to RFA on Monday that Ebeydulla has been in captivity. He was 37 at the time of his arrest, he said.

“He was summoned from Urumqi for interrogation during the night,” the officer said, referring to Xinjiang’s provincial capital. “He was later arrested at his home on the suspicion of ‘attempting to split the country’ a month later and given a paper notice.”

The officer said he didn’t have a copy of the document. Another police officer said Abduqahar received the 15-year prison sentence in early 2017 for “engaging in illegal religious activities” following a monthslong investigation. 

“He didn’t hold any official religious position,” the officer said. “I recall this information vaguely. It was announced when the decision was made.”

Imam at mosque

Ebeydulla was also named in the “Xinjiang Victims Database,” an NGO that has documented the cases of over 60,000 detainees based on family accounts and official documents. But the records show no specifics, just that he had been detained.

He is a husband and father, and is now in his early 40s, the database said.

According to the database, Ebeydulla worked in a food factory and a furniture factory in Urumqi and also served as an imam at a mosque. Since the officer said he didn’t have any official religious post, his role as imam may not have been approved by the state, and perhaps this is what got him in trouble.

Since 2017, he hasn’t had any contact with friends and fellow Uyghurs who live abroad. 

Information gathered by RFA supports recent reports by AFP and other news outlets that Uyghurs continue to face widespread persecution, despite years of international pressure on China to ease the conditions against the group and other Muslim communities in Xinjiang.

An estimated 1.8 million Uyghurs and Kazakhs have been sent to detention camps in China’s far western region in recent years. 

Friends and family members have reported to RFA that their relatives are being held for crimes never fully explained by Chinese authorities. 

Abduqahar’s case has previously been publicized by Amnesty International and Uyghurs outside China, AFP reported. 

According to his friends, Abduqahar’s wife has been detained in a camp for a year and their four children have been placed in a children’s camp during her absence. 

Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.

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