Authorities in in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) have detained the head of a township education committee, according to officials in his home county of Toksun (in Chinese, Tuokexun) in the region’s Turpan (Tulufan) prefecture.
RFA’s Uyghur Service recently learned that Ahmat Tursun was taken into custody nearly two months ago while investigating claims by a listener that police in Toksun had ramped up the detention of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities beginning in 2021, with a focus on state employees who previously managed to evade earlier round ups. Authorities in the XUAR are believed to have detained up to 1.8 million people in a vast network of internment camps since early 2017.
The RFA listener, claiming to have insider knowledge of the situation in Toksun, also provided details about Dilshat Munawwar, a 33-year-old music instructor at Toghra Elementary School in the county’s Shah township who went missing two months ago and is believed detained.
RFA spoke with Guly Mahsut, a Canada-based Uyghur activist from Toksun, who said she had also learned of Munawwar’s detention two months ago from sources in his home village of Seriqdong in Shah but was unable to provide further details. Employees who answered the phone at both the Shah Township Police Station and the township government office were unable to provide any information about the case.
However, when RFA asked an officer at the police station in nearby Kömüsh township about Munawwar and whether the township’s education commissioner would have any information on his whereabouts, the officer responded that the commissioner was not available because he had been taken into custody.
“He’s not here, Commissioner Ahmat … he’s in reeducation,” the officer said, using a euphemism for the internment camps.
“It’s been about two months,” he said, adding that Ahmat’s surname is Tursun and is aged around 40.
The officer said his station had not been informed of Tursun’s detention by higher-level authorities and claimed not to know when asked whether he had been labeled a “religious extremist” or “two-faced”—a term applied by the government to Uyghur cadres who pay lip service to Communist Party rule in the XUAR, but secretly chafe against state policies repressing members of their ethnic group.
It was not immediately clear why Tursun, who the officer said lives in Toksun’s Bostan township, was assigned to work in Kömüsh.
Chinese officials have said camps in the XUAR are centers for “vocational training,” but reporting by RFA and other media outlets shows that detainees are mostly held against their will in cramped and unsanitary conditions, where they are forced to endure inhumane treatment and political indoctrination.
They also have claimed that the camps were closed down beginning in 2019 but reports about Tursun and others suggest that detentions are still occurring at a high rate.
Over the past few years, investigations by RFA and a number of other outlets have shown that ethnically Uyghur government officials of all levels, as well as members of the intellectual and cultural elite, have been detained en masse on accusations of being “two-faced,” indicating that not even those who have expressed Communist Party loyalty in the past are safe.
Additionally, evidence has shown that Uyghur individuals born between 1970 and 2000 are seen as members of “dangerous generations” by the Chinese state, and thus a target for detention. It is currently unclear whether this might be the cause for Dilshat Munawwar and Ahmat Tursun’s detentions.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by the Uyghur Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.