Asia-Pacific

China releases video of Uighur musician, disputing reported death

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China has released a video of missing Uighur musician Abdurehim Heyit, which it says proves he is alive.

Hours after Turkey reported the death of Abdurehim Heyit, China's state media released a video purporting of the Uighur musician saying he is alive.

The video was published on the Turkish language site of China Radio International and shows Abdurehim Heyit citing the date February 10 and reporting that he is "good health".

The 25-second video has not be verified and members of the Uighur diaspora said they have concerns that it could have made under coercion.

"I'm in the process of being investigated for allegedly violating the national laws," the musician said in the video.
"I'm now in good health and have never been abused," he finishes, before the video abruptly ends.

Netherlands-based Otkur Arslan from advocacy group Uyghur Aid said the body language and his statement he is being investigated indicated he is under duress. He was sentenced to eight years in prison for one of his songs.

"He [Heyit] said he is being investigated, but he was reported to be sentenced to 8 years in prison," he posted on Twitter.

"He paused before stating the date and strokes can be heard from background."

Turkey calls for respect from China, urges closure of camps

Hours earlier, Turkey released a statement voicing its first public condemnation of China's treatment of Uighurs.

Human rights groups and the UN have expressed concern over that they said were more than a million Uighurs, including a number of intellectuals, detained in internment camps and prisons - called re-education camps by China.

Apparently galvanised by the reported death of Abdurehim Heyit, Turkey's Foreign Ministry released a strongly worded statement urging the closure of the camps and an end to arbitrary arrests.

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8 November 2018: Australian Uighurs say they've been targeted by Chinese state security
8 November 2018: Australian Uighurs say they've been targeted by Chinese state security

Spokesman Ham Aksoy said the "torture and political brainwashing" by Chinese authorities of Uighur detainees was "a great shame for humanity".

"We invite the Chinese authorities to respect the fundamental human rights of Uighur Turks and to close the internment camps," the statement said.

"Our kinsmen and citizens of Uighur origin living abroad cannot get news from their relatives in the region. Thousands of children have been removed from their parents and became orphans."

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6 November 2018: Marise Payne to confront the Chinese Government about its treatment of Muslim Uighurs
6 November 2018: Marise Payne to confront the Chinese Government about its treatment of Muslim Uighurs

Mr Aksoy also urged the intervention of the UN Secretary General, saying the death of Mr Heyit should galvanise action.

"In such an environment, we have learned with deep sorrow the passing away in his second year of imprisonment of the distinguished folk poet Abdurehim Heyit, who was sentenced to eight years in prison for one of his songs.

"This tragedy has further reinforced the reaction of the Turkish public opinion towards serious human rights violations committed in the Xinjiang region. We expect this legitimate response to be taken into account by the Chinese authorities."

Close surveillance

The Uighurs are a Muslim minority originally from the autonomous region of Xinjiang in China's northwest.

About 10 million Uighurs living in Xinjiang are subjected to a policy of close surveillance and curbing of religious freedoms for their Muslim faith - a moderate form of Sunni Islam.

The crackdown started in 2009 in response to deadly riots in Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi, during which Uighurs had protested about the policies of the Chinese government.

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18 October 2018: China interning Muslim Uighurs to bring them into 'modern, civilised' world
18 October 2018: China interning Muslim Uighurs to bring them into 'modern, civilised' world

The Chinese authorities blamed what it called terrorists and violent separatist groups. In 2017, the crackdown was tightened even further, with China's government citing increased terrorist and extremist activity.

Of a Turkic ethnicity, many Uighurs have fled to Turkey where their language and culture bears share similarities.

 

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