A Japan-educated Uyghur scholar detained in Urumqi

by Anne Kader




TOKYO  –  An Uyghur scholar, Abduhelil Abdureyim, a graduate of Chiba University in Japan, was extra-judicially detained in Urumqi in December 2021.  Mr Abdureyim had earlier returned to his homeland.


His younger brother, Mr. Sami, and his sister living in Japan have recently started campaigning for Abduhelil’s release. The siblings protest daily outside the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo, demanding the immediate release of their elder brother. Abduhelil’s precise whereabouts are unknown, but Mr. Sami says he is being held in a Chinese concentration camp. Mr. Sami says his brother was arrested merely for being an Uyghur. 


Mr, Sami talks about the problems Uyghurs are facing from a very personal perspective. He decided to acquire Japanese nationality in 2015. He did so was because of the Urumqi Massacre in 2009 and the subsequent tightened Chinese government control over the Uyghurs in their homeland. 


After 2009 Mr Sami felt that the atmosphere of his hometown had changed for the worse. Surveillance cameras became commonplace. The government insisted on knowing every movement of Uyghurs and even intruded into the privacy of their homes. The police set up a network of spies that caused Uyghurs to become cautious even about their neighbors.


The Chinese government actively promoted their propaganda, that the Uyghurs’ lives had greatly improved. However, only the Han Chinese had become wealthier. 


Most Uyghurs living in Japan complain that they cannot contact their family members and friends in their homeland. 


Around 2017 Mr Sami was no longer able to make phone calls to his family in Uyghuristan (East Turkistan), nor get a reply when he tried to contact them from Japan through WeChat. By then, the Chinese government had already imposed heavy scrutiny on foreign telephone calls and WeChat.


According to Ilham Mahmut of the Japan Uyghur Association, there are about 2000 Uyghurs living in Japan. Many of them cannot publically reveal their faces as they still have family members in their occupied homeland.


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