The WUC is highly concerned about the imprisonment of Kazakh writer Nagyz Muhammed. For decades, the Chinese government has wrongfully imprisoned Uyghurs and other ethnic groups for lengthy prison sentences, merely for exercising their freedom of expression, writing articles, peacefully practicing their religion, peacefully protesting, or even for studying abroad. Due to heavy monitoring, restrictions on digital activities and reprisals against individuals or their family members to speak to foreign press or organizations, it is very difficult to get details on the condition and situation of many political prisoners.
The imprisonment of Nagyz Muhammed demonstrates the stringent restrictions Kazakhs and Uyghurs in East Turkistan are placed under and the violations of basic human rights. Extremely vague and broad definitions in laws and regulations have led to the criminalization of any civic and religious expression, and leaves no place for any dissenting voices. Since the internment camps in 2017, China started specifically targeting public figures who have a great influence in East Turkistan. This repressive campaign includes imprisonment of Uyghur and Kazakh intellectuals, such as university professors, journalists, students, artists, writers, religious figures, business figures, etc. In March 2019, the Uyghur Human Rights Project identified at least 386 Uyghur intellectuals detained and disappeared since 2017.
On April 27, Amnesty International called for an urgent action concerning the Kazakh writer Nagyz Muhammed. He worked as a writer in Altay’s State Intangible Cultural Heritage Office in East Turkistan, and was a member of the Xinjiang Writers Association. After his last visit to Kazakhstan in March 2018, he was arrested upon his return to Urumqi. His family learned about his arrest in early 2019. According to a source, he was charged with ‘’separatism’’ in a secret trial and sent to a ‘’re-education’’ camp. His current whereabouts and condition remain unknown. The public is invited to write a letter addressed to Director Wang Jiang of the Prison Administration Bureau of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, demanding the following:
- Disclose Nagyz Muhammed’s whereabouts, allow him access to his family and a lawyer of his
- choice, and ensure he is not subjected to torture and other ill-treatment;
- Release Nagyz Muhammed immediately and unconditionally, unless there is sufficient, credible and admissible evidence that he committed an internationally recognized offence and is granted a fair trial in line with international standards.
His case is a reminder of the systematic crackdown on freedom of expression in East Turkistan. Just like Nagyz Muhammed, many prominent Uyghur scholars have been jailed on the same charges of ‘’separatism’’ and sentenced to death in secret trials.
Tashpolat Tiyip was the President of Xinjiang University in East Turkistan. Following a meeting of Communist Party cadres on March 31, 2017, Tiyip was removed from his position. In the same year, while he was traveling to Germany with a group of students for a conference, he was detained at Beijing airport, and he forcibly disappeared. Halmurat Ghopur, former president of Xinjiang Medical University Hospital was arrested on the same charges in 2018, and was given a two-year suspended death sentence.
Their removal and detention was part of the Chinese government’s campaign targeting ‘Two-Faced’ Uyghurs who stray from or who are not fully committed to the party doctrine. It is unclear what their current status is or whether they have been released from detention.
This month, Amnesty International called for an urgent action on Tiyip’s case. The public is invited to write a letter to the Procurator-General Li Yongjun and ask him to provide further details about his case and whereabouts.
In October, UN special procedures issued an urgent appeal to China on Tiyip’s case demanding to provide more information on his case and whereabouts. In December, a spokesperson for China replied claiming that the scholar was charged with ”corruption” and concluded that the secret death trial was ‘’false information’’. However, no further information was provided regarding any court proceedings or his whereabouts. A death sentence ordered under these conditions is arbitrary and violates international laws. The UN experts pointed out that article 1 of the UN Safeguards Protecting the Rights of those facing Death Penalty allows States to only impose death penalty for the most serious crimes, such as intentional killing. The experts reminded that charges of ‘’separatism’’ or ‘’corruption’’ do not meet the required threshold of the ‘’most serious crimes’’.
‘’Freedom of expression for Uyghurs and other Turkic ethnic groups in East Turkistan is effectively non-existent. Many Uyghur and Kazakh scholars have been imprisoned on charges of “separatism” or “endangering state security” said WUC President Dolkun Isa.
We urge everyone to take immediate action on Nagyz Muhammed’s case. The WUC demands that China provides information about the whereabouts and conditions of all the arbitrarily detained public figures, grant them fair trials that meet international standards, and allow access to their families, and halt any possible death penalties.
The WUC calls on the international community to pressure China to release all the arbitrarily detained Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic ethnic groups from internment camps.