China’s hostile diplomacy on Uighurs

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Beijing [China], May 22 (ANI): The hostage diplomacy of China has come to light once again as they are discrediting overseas Uighurs by forcing their family members in Xinjiang to release videos testimonies, in order to save its face internationally and shed criticism over its crackdown on the Uighurs.

In the video testimonies, the detained Uighurs under pressure are forced to heap praises on the Chinese government while accusing their family members of spreading rumours. The development comes in the backdrop of some Chinese Communist Party documents that were leaked last year over the high-security prison camps in Xinjiang which confirmed Beijing’s human rights violations of Uighur Muslims.

For instance, Iminjan Seydin, a former professor of Chinese history at the Xinjiang Islamic Institute, was handed a 15-year jail sentence for “inciting radical ideologies,” German public broadcaster DW news reported.

In 2012, he had also started his own publishing house and published over 50 books on technology, education, psychology and women’s issues.

Seydin’s daughter Samira Imin said that her father was not particularly religious and generally followed the Chinese government’s guidelines on religious observance. Imin, who is living as a student in the United States, has been trying to raise awareness about her father’s disappearance through online activism.

For the last three years, hundreds of Uighur intellectuals among thousands have been imprisoned by Beijing or put into Xinjiang’s re-education camps.

Seydin was sent to join a workgroup organised by Xinjiang’s Bureau of Religious Affairs in Hotan prefecture in 2017. Following his return to Urumqi in May that year, the Xinjiang government detained him without informing his family.

Her daughter stated that her father was convicted in a secret trial last year for publishing books about Arabic grammar for a colleague at the Xinjiang Islamic Institute. The book has some references to Islam, according to DW.

On May 4 this year, Imin was informed by her friends that her father appeared in a video published by Communist Party mouthpiece China Daily. This was the first time she heard anything from him since he disappeared in 2017.

“I felt like the whole thing was surreal, and I wanted to cry but couldn’t really cry. I wasn’t sure if I should be happy, because I didn’t know what my dad was going to tell me in the video,” Imin was quoted as saying.

As Imin mustered some courage to click on the Twitter link, she saw her father was a lot skinnier and had a shaved head.

“Of course, I was happy to see that he’s still alive, but I was also wondering how he lost so much weight over the past three years. He had shrunken for at least two sizes and the clothes that he wore in the video was too big for him,” she said.

While it appeared that her father was released from prison, his message in the video was an absolute shocker and sounded bizarre.

“Recently some overseas anti-China forces deceived my daughter into claiming that I was under illegal detention. This is deception and nonsense. I am very well, healthy and free,” Seydin said in the video. He asked her daughter not to believe in “deceptive rumours” and stop spreading misinformation about “his detention award”.

Seydin claimed that he would have never became a professor or had a rewarding life, if not for the party and the government. “All these things would have been impossible without the care of the party and the government to our family,” he said.

The father said he missed his daughter and asked her to finish her studies in the US so that she could return to China. “Our family will be happier,” he added.

Suspicious after seeing the video, Imin then sent three voice messages to her father’s WeChat account on May 5, to confirm whether he had been released or not. But her father did not respond immediately. Later, Imin’s mother called with a video link and her father was present.

“During the call, my dad kept repeating how great China and the Chinese Communist Party was. He said if it were not because of them, he would not have such a comfortable life. He told me he didn’t want me to be anti-China, because he thought the CCP was treating him well,” she was quoted by DW as saying.

When she questioned her father about his disappearance and his shaven head, Seydin claimed he shaved his head and beard as it was “too dusty” in Hotan.

“He kept reminding me not to engage in activism, and he also wanted me not to listen to anything some ‘bad guys’ said. Since he claimed to have already been freed in the video, I want to always see my dad being healthy and free from now on,” Imin said.

In a similar incident, state-run Global Times released a four-minute video of interviews with family members of three prominent overseas Uighurs, in November last year, in which they kept on praising the Chinese government and accused their family abroad of spreading false information.

Peter Irwin, a senior program officer at the Uyghur Human Rights Project, said it is clear that China wants to use the video as an open threat to Imin.

“The Chinese government has been asking people in Xinjiang to call their family members abroad and tell them to go back to China. Additionally, China is trying to tie all overseas Uighurs who have been speaking up for their family to groups like the World Uighur Congress and Uighur Human Rights Project,” Irwin told DW.

“They are using these particular cases to threaten other overseas Uighurs to stop speaking up. This is basically hostage diplomacy, and it’s not just directed at a particular individual. They are sending a message: ‘we might release these people, but you need to stop speaking up,'” Irwin explained.

Irwin further said, “The case proves that international pressure does work to a certain extent. Overseas Uyghurs need to believe in the truth they see, and speak up with courage. The pressure forces China to change its approach, because they are afraid that their narrative is not strong enough to fight back against all of these people.” (ANI)