On Human Rights Day UHRP Calls for the Release of Hundreds of Uyghur Intellectuals & Elites


December 10, 2021, 10:45 a.m. EST
For Immediate Release
Contact: Omer Kanat +1 (202) 790-1795, Peter Irwin +1 (646) 906-7722

On Human Rights Day 2021, the Uyghur Human Rights Project calls for the release of detained and imprisoned Uyghur intellectuals, and information on the whereabouts of those missing. Our new 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.

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.

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 2018January 2019March 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?”