China Detained at Least 630 Uyghur Imams, 18 Deaths Reported

By Mehmet Tursun

14 May, 2021

China has imprisoned or detained at least 630 imams and other Muslim religious figures since 2014 in its crackdown in Uyghurstan (so-called Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region), according to new research by the Uyghur Human Rights Project. The evidence shows that at least 18 Uyghur religious leaders have died in detention or shortly after.

The UHRP, working with the rights group Justice for All, tracked the fates of 1,046 Muslim clerics — the vast majority of them Uyghurs — using court documents, family testimony, and media reports from public and private databases.

The report, titled “Islam Disposed: China’s Persecution of Uyghur Imams and Religious Figures,” presents a dataset of 1,046 individuals, the majority of whom are Uyghurs, detained for their association with religious teaching and community leadership since 2014. The dataset reveals that 428 individuals have been formally sentenced to prison terms, of which 96 percent were sentenced to prison terms of five years or more, and 25 percent were sentenced to 20 years or more.

The Uyghur Imams and other Turkic Muslim clerics are charged with “propagating extremism,” “gathering a crowd to disturb social order,” and “inciting separatism.”

The database, which drew on research by Uyghur activist Abduweli Ayup, as well as the Xinjiang Victims Database founded by Gene Bunin and the Uyghur Transitional Justice Database, is by no means exhaustive, representing only a fraction of the total estimated number of imams in Xinjiang, and much of the data cannot be independently verified.

The figures presented are not comprehensive, given the extreme secrecy and lack of transparency in the Uyghur Region, and very likely represent a small fraction of the total number of religious figures detained. Nonetheless, the data provides an alarming indication of the scale and severity of the Chinese government’s persecution of religious figures since 2014.

Uyghur Times

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