East Turkestan: Uyghur Photographer Held, Boss Vows Crackdown
An ethnic Uyghur photographer detained shortly after publishing an anti-Chinese article online has gone missing and appears to be under arrest, according to knowledgeable sources in the western city of Kashgar who asked not to be identified.
Memet Turghun Abdulla, who worked in a photo shop in the 5th district of Yengisar county in Kashgar, was detained by State Security officials from Yengisar county in August 2009, but was later released and placed under house arrest, according to a Public Security official who asked not to be named.
He was detained after publishing an online article in Uyghur and Chinese in which he blamed Han Chinese factory workers for deadly attacks on Uyghurs in late June 2009 in far-away Shaoguan, in Guangdong province.
Those attacks triggered deadly ethnic violence in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwestern-most China, in which officials say nearly 200 people were killed.
Memet Turghun Abdulla’s article was titled “Everyone Needs Equality,” and argued that “denying the reality of the incident is denying the truth.”
The security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said in recent days that Memet Turghun Abdulla “has disappeared again—he has been re-arrested, but we don’t know by whom.”
A recent internal bulletin published by and for the Yengisar Party Committee, titled “Frontline Cadres Protect Stability,” noted that “because Memet Turghun Abdulla distributed separatist ideas, he has been arrested.”
“If you want to know the details of his re-arrest, you will have to contact the Xinjiang Public Security Department,” the official said in an interview.
Memet Turghun Abdulla’s family couldn’t be reached to comment on his case, and two local police officials said they knew nothing about his disappearance.
New crackdown coming
Dilxat Raxit, chairman of the World Uyghur Congress, called for international intervention to free Memet Turghun Abdulla, saying, “he only wrote an article online and expressed a different opinion.”
“He was arrested because he exercised rights guaranteed by international law and the Chinese Constitution.”
Meanwhile, in remarks quoted by the Xinjiang media, the region’s new Communist Party boss, Zhang Chunxian, vowed a renewed crackdown on separatist elements.
“We must clearly recognize the serious and extremely complex nature of the struggle between separatism and anti-separatism,” the Xinjiang Daily quoted him as telling the region's armed police Saturday.
"Maintaining stability must come before all else ... We must strike hard at all the separatist and destructive activities brought on by the three forces of terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism."
Zhang was appointed the region's Communist Party boss in April. Zhang, 57, replaced Wang Lequan, who had served as China's top leader in Xinjiang for nearly 15 years and was responsible for handling the July 2009 violence in the vast resource-rich region bordering Central Asia.
Many of Xinjiang’s estimated 8 million Uyghurs chafe at the strict controls on religion that China enforces and resent influxes of Han Chinese migrant workers and businesses.
Human rights groups say Beijing has exaggerated the threat from militants to justify suppressing legitimate peaceful demands by Uyghurs.
To fight discontent, China will from 2011 pour around 10 billion yuan (U.S. $1.5 billion dollars) in economic aid into Xinjiang, in a bid to raise the living standards of the Uyghur minority, state media say.