Two Uyghur students from Al-Azhar University who were detained after voluntarily returning to China’s northwest Xinjiang region have died in police custody.
A resident of Xinjiang, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told RFA’s Uyghur Service that Abdusalam Mamat and Yasinjan, both from Korla city, had been studying at Al-Azhar University in Egypt since 2015 and 2016, respectively.
After the communist authorities in Xinjiang issued an order earlier this year for Uyghurs living abroad to travel home to “register” with authorities, Mamat voluntarily returned to Korla in January and Yasinjan three months later, the source said.
The two young men were immediately imprisoned upon arrival and later died in police custody under suspicious circumstances, despite having no prior health issues, the source added.
Thousands of Uyghur Muslims have been detained in “re-education camps” and prisons throughout Xinjiang since April as part of an ongoing crackdown and assimilation programme for allegedly harbouring “extremist” and “politically incorrect” views.
Many Uyghurs are believed to have already been deported home to Xinjiang, where human rights groups say they face a serious risk of arbitrary detention and torture, but many of those who have voluntarily returned home have also been taken into custody.
China regularly conducts “strike hard” campaigns in Xinjiang, including police raids on Uyghur households, restrictions on Islamic practices, and curbs on the culture and language of the Uyghur people.
While China falsely blames some Uyghurs for “terrorist” attacks, experts outside China say Beijing has exaggerated the threat to justify its repressive policies in Xinjiang.