Decades of service to China’s government didn’t save my Uyghur dad from prison


April 16, 2021

In 2017, my family’s nightmare began: Over four decades, my father, Mamat Abdullah, had served China in many posts, including in the 1990s as the mayor of Korla, the second-largest city in the Xinjiang region. He helped open up trade with other parts of China for Korla’s agricultural products, including its famous pears. His last government position was as chief of the regional forestry bureau. He was held in high esteem in Urumqi, the regional capital — my home before I immigrated to the United States.

He was a member of the Chinese Communist Party. He had no involvement with Uyghur separatists, always followed the law, and wanted Uyghurs and Han to coexist peacefully. He traveled to the United States on several occasions, often for work and also to visit me, my brother and our families. My parents planned to visit again in 2017 and got initial approval from the Chinese government.

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