Chinese Authorities jail prominent Uyghur academic for life for ‘endangering state security’
The Authorities in East Turkistan, referred to by the Chinese authorities as Xinjiang Province, confirmed this week that the internationally celebrated Uyghur academic, acclaimed folklore author and university professor, Rahile Dawut, has been sentenced this week to life imprisonment on the charge of ‘endangering state security’.
Rahile Dawut was disappeared 6 years ago
Dawut was initially arrested by the harsh Chinese authorities six years ago and effectively disappeared on allegations of 'separatism' or as is known in the region ‘Splittism’. She and hundreds of others academics are effectively being sanctioned for practising their own cultural traditions. Family, friends and colleagues have been refused any information as to her whereabouts or her state of health during this time.
Chinese clampdown on the Uyghurs is 'cultural genocide'
The charge of 'Splittism' is regularly used to indict Uyghurs in East Turkistan, who fail to conform to the rigid cultural norms imposed by the state or who dare to engage in their own cultural traditions. Effectively this is a mechanism for punishing those who practice alternative faith and cultural traditions, which fall outside state mandated norms - a process which human rights groups refer to as 'cultural genocide'.
As many as 500 Uyghur intellectuals have been jailed
The harsh sentence pronounced against Rahile Dawut, is just the latest action within the brutal crackdown against Uyghurs in the region, which has seen over 300 similar sentences imposed during the last decade on high profile intellectual figures within the Uyghur community. The Advocate Group, Human Rights Project, insists that the number is nearer to 500 Uyghur intellectuals, according to documented evidence which they have collected up until December 2021.
Academics are deliberately targeted because their incarceration strikes at the heart of Uyghur culture
They explain that the high esteem placed on intellectuals, scholars and professors within the Uyghur community, ensures that the incarceration or detention of such figures immediately strikes at the heart of Uyghur culture. Their detention represents an adjunct to the harsh assimilation programme, which has seen the arbitrary detention of an estimated 3 million Uyghurs across East Turkistan.
Chinese government presents the dubious argument that their tough policies create social stability
According to Human Rights Watch, the Chinese leadership, including most recently President Xi Jinping, insist their policies across the Xinjiang region in northwest China have achieved 'hard won social stability'.
The government’s says its strategy is to create ‘normalisation’ across the region, butthe reality is that this actually means a policy of enforcing conformity to one view of national identity and this brutal pursuit requires the crushing of the Uyghur culture.
Reports indicate mass internment and widespread abuses against Uyghurs
Human Rights advocates have published numerous reports highlighting China’s mass internment campaign targeting Uyghurs, along with details of widespread abuses such as forced sterilisation and cultural repression. The US State Department have taken the bold step of classifying China’s actions as ‘genocide’. Although many Western countries including the UK, are reluctant to follow suit.
Rahile's daughter appeals for clemency
Rahile Dawut’s daughter, Akeda Pulati, who is based in the US in Seattle, has appealed to the Chinese government to show leniency to her mother. In a statement released by the San Francisco based human rights organisation, Dui Hua Foundation, she said:
‘The thought of my innocent mother having to spend her life in prison brings unbearable pain. China, show your mercy and release my innocent mother’
International human rights advocates condemn the harsh sentence imposed on Rahile Dawut
Kenneth Roth, the former Executive Director of Human Rights Watch responding to news of Dawut’s sentence said:
‘As the Chinese government tries to wipe out Uyghur culture, it views as dangerous any academic who studies Uyghur culture (thereby affirming its existence). Hence a life sentence imposed on a leading Uyghur ethnographer’
Rahima Mahmut, The UK Director of the ‘Uyghur Congress’ and Executive Director of ‘Stop Uyghur Genocide’, said she failed to understand why authentic cultural research from an renowned anthropologist should be deemed to threaten the regime in China. She said:
Rahile Dawut, a renowned anthropologist and a cherished individual has been given a life sentence. After 6 years missing, this heartbreaking news exemplifies the CCP’s genocidal policy against Uyghurs. Stop Uyghur Genocide condemns the outrageous sentencing of life imprisonment for the prominent Uyghur academic Rahile Dawut. For the Chinese government to strike her is to strike at the heart of Uyghur culture…This sentencing, a deliberate attempt to extinguish the vibrant Uyghur culture, represents a grave insult to humanity. In the strongest possible terms, we condemn this brutal and outrageous act. We assert unequivocally that Professor Dawut is innocent, and we demand her immediate release from the grasp of a life sentence, for justice must prevail’
Advocates join forces to protest
The Stop Uyghur Genocide UK campaign has joined forces with a number of other repressed Chinese communities and plans to hold a mass rally in London on 1st October - traditionally a day of celebration as China’s National Day. Newly dubbed ‘Resist the CCP Day – ‘No Celebrations ~ China’s Dictatorship’, protesters and organisers from Tibet, Hong Kong, South Mongolia, Uyghur and other expat community representatives, will march from Trafalgar Square to the Chinese Embassy in Portland Place.