Uyghur doctoral student arrested by Xinjiang authorities at Chinese university

A Uyghur doctoral student praised in the Chinese media and known in Xinjiang for academic achievements was arrested by authorities from the far-western region in April while attending university in Guangzhou, a source familiar with the situation and school officials told RFA.

Abduqadirjan Rozi, a 35-year-old a graduate management student at Sun Yat-sen University, won the 2015 National College Student English Competition in China and in 2018 was named the university’s student of the year and the “Model Person of the Powerful New Generation.”

He holds an advanced certificate in English from Cambridge International Business English and served as a judge for the Xinjiang division of the annual “21st Century Coca-Cola Cup” National English-Speaking competition.

University officials visited Abduqadirjan’s family in Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi) in January 2019 to thank them for raising such a talented individual, according to a report on the Chinese news website Sohu.

Despite the accolades, Abduqadirjan disappeared from social media and then from his community in April, according to a source with knowledge of the case.

The source made inquiries and learned that Abduqadirjan had been detained by police at Sun Yat-sen University and taken back to Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), he said.

“I got the news of his arrest in late April,” he said. “I inquired about his situation later from different people and got the final news that he had, in fact, been arrested in April by national security from Urumqi.”

When RFA contacted the university’s governing body at Guangdong province’s Department of Education, an official said she had no information about the incident.

According to Chinese media reports, one of the certificates awarded to the scholar described his professional and personal qualities as “an example of both morals and competence, as well as self-confidence and idealism.”

The plaque also praised his political ideals as “contributing to the development and stability of Xinjiang” and praised him as a “bridge to national unity.”

It is unknown why and where Abduqadirjan was arrested.

A university official contacted by RFA confirmed that Abduqadirjan was being detained.

“Yes, what you heard is true,” he said, but added that he did not have details about his arrest.

The official said he learned of the scholar’s arrest at an official school meeting when another employee told him that Abduqadirjan would no longer be coming to the university.

“I heard about it in the school meeting,” he said. “We were told not to ask why he was arrested.”

Chinese authorities have targeted and arrested numerous Uyghur intellectuals, businessmen, and cultural and religious figures in the XUAR for years as part of a campaign to monitor, control, and assimilate members of the minority group purportedly to prevent religious extremism and terrorist activities.

Many of them have been among the 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities believed to be held in a network of detention camps in Xinjiang since 2017. Beijing has said that the camps are vocational training centers and has denied widespread and documented allegations that it has mistreated Muslims living in Xinjiang.

Norway-based Uyghur Hjelp, a rights organization, has included Abduqadirjan in a database of hundreds of Uyghur intellectuals detained since he disappeared in April.

Abduqadirjan’s professors were not informed of his arrest until the start of the school semester in September, according to the rights group.

Abduqadirjan had written a scholarly paper on the contribution of tourism to Xinjiang’s economic development, which was highly praised by authorities, according to Chinese news outlets. But it was not immediately clear if the article dealt with ethnic relations — a sensitive topic that would have landed him on authorities’ radar screen.

RFA has reported numerous cases in which successful Uyghur scholars, writers, and entrepreneurs win public and state media praise for their achievements, only to later be detained and branded “two-faced” Uyghurs, accused of paying lip service to Communist Party rule while secretly chafing against the repression of the 12 million members of the ethnic group.

Translated by the Uyghur Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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