The Uyghur Human Rights Project releases a report on the limits placed on environmental activism among Uyghurs
Sentence: Life Imprisonment
Location: Urumchi #1 Prison
Abdurazzak Shamseden (known in Chinese as Abudurezhake Xianmuxiding) was 28 years old at the time of his detention on April 18, 1998, Amnesty International reports. A farmer and woodworker by profession from Kepekyuzi village, near Ghulja city, he was detained after an incident in nearby Hudiyaryuzi village in which six Uyghur youths were killed during a clash with security forces, which had been deployed from inner China to crack down in Ghulja. The reason for his detainment is that his nephew Hammat Muhemmet was one of the youths involved in the incident.
Shamseden was detained with eight other local farmers: Abduhalik Abdureshit (his cousin), Abdulhekim Abdulletip, Hudiyumberdi Begzad (also known as Atawulla Begzad), Elyas Jalal, Jur’at Nuri, Nurmuhammat Yarmuhammad, Tohtahun Yarmuhammed and Saydulla Kurban. In July 1999, the group was reported to have had a court hearing, but the charges, sentences and even their whereabouts were unknown.
In December 1999, Amnesty attained the court verdicts, which ranged from the death sentence to one year in prison. Amnesty identified evidence of grossly unfair judicial practices in the trials, including extracting confessions based on torture, and warned of further risk of torture.
Family members had not been informed of a trial date, nor did the verdict reference the date of any trials, and relatives were informed of the sentences through unofficial channels only three days before the final date for appeal. Shamseden and four of the others had no legal representation; only Jur’at Nuri, Abduhalik Abdureshit and Saydulla Kurban had attorneys. Abdureshit reportedly told the court that anyone who had been tortured as severely as he had would confess to anything. Amnesty identified numerous and major discrepancies between the indictment, issued in December 1998 and the July 1999 verdict. They write:
"Substantial new accusations appear in the court verdict indicating that during the eight months after the prosecution’s indictment was issued, the inconsistencies in the indictment were ‘resolved’ by extracting further ‘confessions’ through torture which linked these 11 cases to other political cases being tried separately."
Issue (targeting family, torture, Ghulja Massacre):
Punishment of Uyghurs for their family members’ political activities is a common tactic employed by China, most recently spotlighted in the case of two brothers of the Radio Free Asia journalist, Shohret Hoshur. The tactic has also been well documented domestically, including in the case of the family of Ilham Tohti.
Shamseden’s detention came in the wake of the Ghulja massacre and was part of the authorities’ ongoing crackdown on Uyghurs’ political activities in the region. His hometown, Kepekyuzi village, was an important part of the meshrep movement that started in 1994 and was led by his younger brother Sadirdin Shamseden, a grassroots movement by Uyghurs to tackle social problems like alcohol and drug abuse. The initiative was initially supported by several cultural institutions in Ghulja, who donated materials for a library in Kepekyuzi village.
The meshrep movement gained momentum in subsequent years throughout the region surrounding Ghulja, particularly after authorities launched a “strike hard” campaign in 1996. Following a religious crackdown including a ban on meshrep, on February 5, 1997, a demonstration was held in the city. Armed police violently put down the demonstration, and authorities subsequently rounded up thousands of Uyghurs suspected of participating.
The use of torture to extract confessions is a common practice as is extensively documented for the period at which Shamseden’s arrest took place in a report on the 1997 Ghulja massacre by Amnesty International. China's use of torture against Uyghurs was most recently highlighted in a periodic review of China's commitments to the UN Convention Against Torture, for which UHRP partnered with the World Uyghur Congress on a joint report.
Sign UHRP’s petition to release all 8 prisoners in this campaign
See Channel Four News (UK) video on the Ghulja massacre.
BRIEFING: World Uyghur Congress/Uyghur Human Rights Project submit Alternative Report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) (Uyghur Human Rights Project, November 2, 2015)
Eighteenth anniversary of Ghulja Massacre highlights Chinese government pattern of state violence targeting Uyghurs (Uyghur Human Rights Project: February 3, 2015)
Silencing Uyghurs: A Family Affair (Huffington Post: January 26, 2015)
Amnesty's bid to free jailed man (Gazette Standard: October 21, 2009)
Gross Violations of Human Rights in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (Amnesty International: April 21, 1999)
Fear of Imminent execution/torture/ill-treatment/unfair trial (Amnesty International: December 14, 1999)