China confirms death of Uighur man 'detained in Xinjiang camp since 2017'

China confirms death of Uighur man 'detained in Xinjiang camp since 2017'
3 min read
02 October, 2020
In a rare move, Beijing has confirmed the death of a Uighur man who is thought to have been held in a Xinjiang detention camp.

China has continued its persecution of Uighurs despite international pressure [AFP/Getty]

China has confirmed the death of an Uighur Muslim man whose family believe had been held in a detention camp in Xinjiang since 2017, the Guardian reported.

Rights groups say more than one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic-speaking people have been incarcerated in camps across the northwestern territory, with residents pressured to give up traditional and religious activities.

In a rare move, the Chinese government has confirmed the death of Abdulghafur Hapiz - a retired driver from Kashgar - to the United Nations.

The disappearance of Hapiz was registered with the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) in April 2019.

But China only responded to formal inquiries from the international body this month. In a document seen by the Guardian, China told the WGEID that Hapiz died in November 2018 from "severe pneumonia and tuberculosis".

Hapiz's daughter Fatimah Abdulghafur told the Guardian: "I don't believe it. If he died of anything it would have been diabetes".

"I know my father's health and I've been talking about his health issues. He had a (tuberculosis) shot."

The Chinese authorities have given no information on Hafiz's burial or grave.

'Personal success'

Australia-based poet and activist Abdulghafur believes her father was sent to an internment camp in March 2017.

She told the Guardian she last heard from her father in a voice message on her WeChat. He told her: "I have something urgent to tell you please call me".

But when Abdulghafur called him back, she was unable to reach him. "I was frantically looking for my father, when he was already gone. It's also really sad because I couldn't speak to him before his death," she told the British newspaper.

Abdulghafur said the rare acknowledgement from China brings hope by paving the way for potential legal action. 

"This is an official letter from the government given to the UN, so I can take this letter to maybe an international court to say this is my evidence, and let the Chinese government show their evidence," she said.