Posted on 13 May 2019

Guligeina Tashimaimaiti, a PhD student at the University of Technology, Malaysia, has not been heard from since 26 December 2017, when she returned to her hometown in Yili, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Her family fear that she has been detained at a re-education camp in China and is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

She was last seen by her friend Sammy (name changed to protect identity) at Malaysia’s Senai International Airport on 26 December 2017. They had both agreed that Guligeina Tashimaimaiti would change her photo on WeChat, a popular Chinese social media platform, every week as a sign that she was safe.  

Guligeina Tashimaimaiti changed her profile photo one week after her return home to Yili, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). However, the profile photo remained the same for a couple of weeks, until one day her background photo suddenly changed to a dark, black and white, gloomy photo of something that looked like a prison cell.

Given the ongoing and unprecedented crackdown in the XUAR against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities, both Sammy and Guligeina Tashimaimaiti’s older sister Gulzire fear that she might have been detained in a re-education camp. Despite being warned by friends and family not to return to the region, Guligeina Tashimaimaiti was worried about her parents, whom she had not been able to contact since her last visit to Yili in February 2017. 

Guligeina Tashimaimaiti was due to start her PhD studies in February 2018. After not hearing from her in several months, Gulzire and Sammy decided to approach the university in Malaysia and the media to raise the profile of the case.  

Please write immediately in Chinese, English, Malay or your own language urging authorities to:

  • Release Guligeina Tashimaimaiti and drop any charges against her unless there is sufficient credible and admissible evidence that she has committed an internationally recognized offence and is granted a fair trial in line with international standards;
  • Ensure that Guligeina Tashimaimaiti has regular, unrestricted access to a lawyer of her choice and her family and is not subjected to torture or other ill-treatment; 
  • Ensure that everybody in the XUAR is able to communicate with family members and others, including with family members living in other countries, without interference unless justified in line with international human rights law.