312 Persecuted Uyghur Intellectuals and Artists Highlighted in New UHRP Research

Intellectuals Briefing Featured_2021-12-07

December 8, 2021 | 10:00 a.m. EDT
For Immediate Release
Contact: Omer Kanat +1 (202) 819-0598, Peter Irwin +1 (646) 906-7722

Ahead of Human Rights Day 2021, a new Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) briefing, The Disappearance of Uyghur Intellectual and Cultural Elites: A New Form of Eliticide, documents the internment, imprisonment, or otherwise forcible disappearance of 312 intellectual and cultural producers. 

UHRP calls on China to release those detained. We believe these 312 individuals represent a partial accounting for an unknown and significant number of targeted intellectuals and cultural producers. Our total does not include people who died as a result of their persecution and persons known to be released. 

In Islam Dispossessed: China’s Persecution of Uyghur Imams and Religious Figures and Under the Gavel: Evidence of Uyghur-owned Property Seized and Sold Online, UHRP documented the oppression of religious and businesspersons. In conjunction with the pursuit of intellectuals and artists, UHRP concludes the Chinese government’s actions constitute a new form of eliticide meant to exterminate Uyghur cultural identity.

“We are raising the alarm about brutality, forced assimilation and destruction of a distinct culture built on centuries of innovation and a proud heritage. Uyghurs, like anyone on the planet, have a right to freely express themselves as educators, philosophers, writers, and performers,” said UHRP Executive Director, Omer Kanat.

Mr. Omer Kanat added, “UHRP has been documenting the persecution of intellectual and cultural elites for four years. I challenge the Chinese government to prove us wrong in the cases we present in this briefing and demonstrate to the satisfaction of the families that their loved ones are safe. I also challenge the academic community to speak out for their colleagues. This includes universities and publications who have hosted the work of Uyghur scholars. There should be no hesitation in pressing the Chinese government for proof of life and the immediate release of Uyghur scholars and artists.”

The 312 intellectual and cultural elites interned, imprisoned, or otherwise forcibly disappeared since April 2016 come from a range of professional fields, including medical experts, university professors, editors, poets, and singers. The government’s attack on elites is a critical weapon in China’s multi-pronged and brutal campaign of social re-engineering in the Uyghur homeland. It is clear evidence of the government’s intent to destroy Uyghur cultural identity by imposing total control over intellectual and cultural production.

Several cases of targeted intellectual and cultural producers have received wide coverage in the international press, such as Uyghur folklore expert Dr. Rahile Dawut, geographer and former Xinjiang University President Tashpolat Teyip, prominent Uyghur scholar and poet Dr. Abduqadir Jalaleddin, former Xinjiang Medical University President Halmurat Ghopur, and singer Ablajan Awut Ayup.  

This briefing highlights the life work and ongoing persecution of Professor Abdubesir Shukuri, Dean of the Department of Literature at Xinjiang Normal University; literature teacher and poet Gulnisa Imin; and young Uyghur scholar Dr. Exmet Momin Tarim. 

In collaboration with Abduweli Ayup of Uyghur Yardem, or UyghurHjelp, UHRP conducted interviews with the family members and close associates of the three disappeared individuals, whose cases have received less public attention. Verification sources included the public websites of professional institutions and leaked documents, such as the Aksu List. 

UHRP confirmed key information for a total of 109 individuals whose cases are already documented in the Xinjiang Victims Database. This briefing is an update on UHRP research published in October 2018, January 2019, March 2019, and May 2019.

UHRP Executive Director, Mr. Omer Kanat, commented, “As Uyghurs, we are proud of our scientific and cultural achievements, which have contributed to humankind’s collective store of knowledge. So, why has there been so little response from the world toward the deliberate eradication of this culture and the substitution of a fake shell, a Potemkin show?”

The full database is available for viewing on our website here, and in a publicly accessible Google Sheet.

Read the full briefing here: The Disappearance of Uyghur Intellectual and Cultural Elites: A New Form of Eliticide