'How could they be that cruel and heartless?': Uyghurs in China given long prison sentences

WION Web Team
Beijing Published: Jun 25, 2021, 02:08 PM(IST)

Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang (file photo) Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

There is a separate programme that includes the long-term imprisonment of Uyghurs for alleged offences including terrorism, separatism, and inciting ethnic hatred, in addition to the detention system (vocational training centres). 

The number of persons sentenced to long prison terms in Xinjiang has increased dramatically since 2014 when Beijing intensified its crackdown on the region's Muslim-majority Uyghurs. 

The Chinese government has been accused by the US State Department and human rights organisations of detaining up to two million Uyghurs and Muslim minorities in extralegal detention camps, which Beijing claims are "vocational training centres" aimed to prevent separatism and religious extremism. 

Also Read | Amid accusations of genocide from the West, China policies could cut millions of Uyghur births in Xinjiang: Report

There is a separate programme that includes the long-term imprisonment of Uyghurs for alleged offences including terrorism, separatism, and inciting ethnic hatred, in addition to the detention system (vocational training centres). 
 

According to a news report by CNN, Newlyweds Mehray Mezensof and Mirzat Taher were two days from leaving Xinjiang to start a new life in Australia when Chinese police knocked on their door in April 2017, seized Taher`s passport and threw him into detention.

Also Read | Persecution of Uyghur Muslims: China hits back at G7 rights criticism

During the next four years, Taher was imprisoned in Xinjiang detention centres on three separate occasions for months at a time, Mezensof told CNN from her home in Melbourne, where the married couple had hoped to live together.

Then in April this year, she received a phone call to say her husband had been tried for separatism and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

"How could they be that cruel, like how can they be that heartless? My husband didn`t do anything. And he`s already been through so much in the last four years," she said.

The detainee's records don't reveal the crimes committed, or profile the religion or ethnicity of those convicted, reported Rebecca Wright, Ivan Watson and Ben Westcott. Nathan Ruser, a researcher at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and author of a report into Xinjiang satellite imagery, said evidence of increased prison infrastructure and Uyghur testimony from the region indicated that systemic persecution through the courts was likely still prevalent, informed CNN reporters.

In Xinjiang, around 21,000 people were sentenced to prison in 2014.

After four years, the figure had risen to approximately 133,200.

In a territory with a population of almost 25 million people, more than a quarter of a million people were imprisoned between 2016 and 2018.

As more people were sentenced to prison, the length of their sentences grew longer. 

The evidence and proves supporting the convictions was not always shared or explained.

Human rights groups have long questioned China's legal system, which has a conviction rate of more than 99%.Out of 1.5 million cases, just 656 people were judged not guilty in Chinese courts in 2020.

(With inputs from agencies)

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