The Persecution of the Intellectuals in the Uyghur Region Continues

For immediate release

January 28, 2019 2:00 pm EST

Contact: Uyghur Human Rights Project +1 (202) 478 1920

Since April 2017, the Chinese government has interned, imprisoned, or forcibly disappeared at least 338 intellectuals as part of its intensified assault on Uyghurs and extermination of their culture in East Turkestan.

Five deaths in custody in this period have been confirmed, but the true number of intellectuals who have died in the camps, or died immediately after release, is unknown, given the veil of secrecy and fear.

Dozens of intellectuals are also serving harsh sentences handed down prior to April 2017. 

The findings of UHRP’s report raise a fundamental ethical question for universities outside China. At a time when the state has thrown at least 338 scholars and students into ethnic-concentration camps, can exchanges and scholarly cooperation with state institutions in China continue?

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) calls upon universities, researchers, and cultural programs to suspend all cooperation with the Chinese Ministry of Education until the camps are closed, the victims compensated, and perpetrators brought to justice.

UHRP collected information for this report from several sources. The work of Uyghur scholar-in-exile Abduweli Ayup has been critical in alerting the international community to the extent of the devastation Uyghur intellectual life has undergone. UHRP is greatly indebted to his research.

Those taken away include 96 students identified as interned, imprisoned or forcibly disappeared and 242 scholars, artists, and journalists. Among them are an alarming 61 university instructors and 57 journalists, editors, and publishers.

One of the identified intellectuals is 40-year-old Mutellip Nurmehmet who died nine days after his release from an internment camp. Mutellip earned two master’s degrees in the United States: in Business Administration at California State University, and in Information Systems at Northeastern University.  

The persecution of teachers, scholars and artists constitutes an attempt to erase Uyghur identity in what historian James Millward has termed a “cultural cleansing.”

In commemoration of  International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, UHRP recalls Nazi Germany’s targeting and eradication of Jewish leaders, scholars, and professionals in an attempt to destroy the intellectual underpinning of Jewish identity.  

The international community must act urgently, before it is too late, to condemn the Chinese government’s unconscionable persecution of Uyghur intellectuals. The report is available here.

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