Uyghurs Are Told to Confess Political 'Mistakes' in Mass Meetings

A map of Xinjiang showing the location of Aksu prefecture.

2017-02-14

In scenes reminiscent of China’s Cultural Revolution, ethnic Uyghurs in the country’s Xinjiang region are being called to meetings to confess their “crimes,” with punishment threatened for those whose misdeeds come to light in other ways, RFA’s Uyghur Service has learned.

The meetings, conducted as part of a campaign called “Revealing Errors,” are being held in Xinjiang’s Aksu (in Chinese, Akesu) prefecture to uncover behavior considered politically destabilizing in the restive, mostly-Muslim region in China’s far northwest, sources say.

“Village residents from 18-65 years of age are being brought to their village office every day to admit to their mistakes or to point out mistakes they have seen others make,” according to a letter from an Aksu resident received by RFA.

Residents are called to a podium one by one to confess these errors after they have listed them on a 39-question form, the letter says, adding, “They are also told they will face legal consequences if they attempt to cover up their own or anyone else’s anti-state activities.”

Speaking to RFA on condition of anonymity, a police officer in Aksu’s Shayar county said, “The central question asked at these meetings is, ‘Have you ever watched, saved, or forwarded harmful religious or separatist postings or [media] clips, or have you ever seen anyone else do this?’”

Uyghurs are also asked if they have ever made politically “harmful” statements in public or in smaller gatherings of family, neighbors, or friends, or if they have heard anyone else do so, the officer said.

'A big mistake'

At a public sentencing held at Bostan village in Asku’s Kuchar county on Jan. 31, five of seven defendants were released on parole because of their “good attitude” in cooperating with authorities, Kurban Memet, a Uyghur police officer from Kuchar’s Uzun township, told RFA.

“But the other two were arrested and handcuffed in front of everyone because they had not fully revealed their mistakes,” Memet said.  

“They have now been transferred to judicial authorities,” Memet said.

“I was in shock when I heard the verdict against the two,” said Niyaz Ghopur, a local farmer. “They really made a big mistake.”

“They had watched video clips posted by an overseas separatist group, and they were supposed to reveal this at the meeting, even if they had opened the separatists’ website by accident.”

“I think they could get as much as seven years for this crime,” Ghopur said.

Rush to confess

Frightened by the sentencing at Bostan, which was attended by over 1,000 people from Uzun township’s villages, residents were rushing to confess their crimes before a Feb. 10 deadline, Kurban Memet told RFA last week.

“Some farmers don’t know which videos or film clips could be considered harmful,” Memet said.

“We just tell them not to be late in revealing their problems, that they will be in much greater danger if they try to hide things,” he said.

Reported and translated by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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