Concentration camps and forced labor: China’s repression of the Uighurs, explained

Jewher Ilham speaks at the 2019 Sakharov Prize. Photo: European Parliament

Jul 28, 2020, 9:30am EDT

Jewher Ilham has not heard from her father since 2017.

Her dad, Ilham Tohti, is an economics professor and prominent Uighur intellectual in Xinjiang, China. He ran a website, UighurOnline, that focused on issues pertaining to the Muslim ethnic minority group.

Chinese authorities repeatedly shut down the website. Jewher says the family received death threats. Chinese authorities also disappeared her father multiple times before detaining him in 2014 and quickly finding him guilty on separatism charges. He was sentenced to life in prison.

At first, Jewher told me, because her father was a political prisoner, the family could visit him every few months. But then the Chinese government cut off access entirely.

Jewher is in the United States; she still has extended family in Xinjiang, the northwestern region in China where most Uighurs live. She does not talk with them, either. “If they talk to me or if they receive a phone call from me, I don’t think anything good will happen to them,” she told me over the phone last week.