Uyghur film-maker claims he was tortured by authorities in China

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November 8, 2023 | The Guardian | By Jessie Lau

Peter Irwin, an associate director for research and advocacy at the Uyghur Human Rights Project, said the persecution of Uyghur intellectuals and cultural elites may be more widespread than reported cases suggested. In Nurmehmet’s case, it is difficult to know whether he was targeted for having studied in Turkey or for his status as a cultural figure, he said.

“There are a lot of people being sentenced who went to Turkey. In some ways, what this film-maker was doing through his work – the humanisation of Uyghurs and [facilitating] communication between Uyghurs and Chinese people – I think the government is suspicious and worries about this kind of stuff.”

The Chinese state launched its Strike Hard anti-terrorism campaign in Xinjiang in 2014, after several terrorist attacks reportedly orchestrated by Uyghur separatists. An estimated half a million people are believed to have been imprisoned during a crackdown that escalated in 2017.

More than 300 intellectuals and members of its cultural elites are currently held in some form of extralegal detention after having disappeared between 2016 and 2021, according to a database by the Uyghur Human Rights Project.

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