Unemployment is one of the biggest challenges facing the Uyghur people in East Turkestan.
Charge: Inciting racial hatred or discrimination/inciting splittism
Sentence: 10 years
Location: Xinjiang No. 1 Prison
Yasin was born in 1974. He is a prolific, award-winning writer of short stories, essays and poetry, including three poetry volumes: First Love, Crying From the Heart, and Come on Children.
The Kashgar Literature Journal published Wild Pigeon, in 2004, which was widely circulated and recommended for an award by a major Uyghur literary website. Wild Pigeon explored themes of freedom and imprisonment through the story of a captured pigeon prince who chooses to kill himself rather than live in captivity. It has been translated into English by Radio Free Asia.
After publishing Wild Pigeon, Yasin was arrested on November 29, 2004. At the time of his detention, authorities also seized his personal computer, which contained more than 1,600 poems, short stories and an uncompleted novel.
Yasin has experienced great difficulty in prison. In 2005, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, met him and confirmed his beatings in jail, urging his release. In 2007, Human Rights in China announced unconfirmed reports that he had been tortured to death and again in 2009, the International PEN Uyghur Centre announced similar reports. In 2012, Chinese legal scholar Teng Biao reported Yasin’s death, though his family denied the rumor.
Artistic expression is firmly controlled by the Chinese state and individuals who do not follow the government’s lead in these areas are punished. In 2002 a campaign targeted “poems, songs, books, pamphlets, letters, or the Internet” for alleged separatist content. As part of the crackdown, Chinese officials closed down 52 out of 118 state-controlled publications due to the “sensitive nature of their content.”
The campaign appeared to stem from the recital of a poem by Tursunjan Emet at a New Year’s event in Urumchi in January 2002. According to one account: “[Emet] expressed the popular negative attitudes towards government policies in a symbolic form. The Uighurs expressed their support with big applause whereas the Chinese officials were clearly unhappy about this happening.”
However, former Xinjiang chairman Ismail Tiliwaldi criticized the work as “a brazen reactionary poem explicitly attacking the reality of society, and which instigated minority revenge, encouraged minority splittist thought, damaged the unity of the minorities and damaged social stability, creating an especially serious political influence upon society.” Tiliwaldi continued: “This shows that ethnic splittists have weapons in one hand, and culture in the other. They not only use violence to oppose us, they also contest us in the realm of ideology.”
In addition, those accused of possessing “illegal publications” are targeted through state-sponsored Sweep Away Pornography and Strike Down Illegal Publication campaigns in 2008, and 2011, which have especially targeted political and religious materials.
Sign UHRP's petition to release all 8 prisoners in this campaign
Audio: Rebecca Lenkiewicz reads Nurmuhammet Yasin
Download: Free e-book of Wild Pigeon via iTunes (Radio Free Asia, 2014)
Watch: Radio Free Asia's Catherine Antoine and Enver K. Uyghur, and Brian Williamson talking about the making of the 'Caged' eBook.
UAA Urges China to Immediately Release Information on Nurmemet Yasin’s Condition (Uyghur Human Rights Project, January 2, 2013)
China: Uighur writer’s death in prison would be bitter blow (Amnesty International, January 2, 2013)
Uyghur Rights and Writers (Uyghur PEN)
Introduction to Focus on Uyghur Poetry — Web Exclusive (Center for the Art of Translation)
Honoring Chinese, Tibetan and Uyghur Writers -- When the London Book Fair Did Not (Huffington Post, 2012)