20 RELATIVES OF UIGHUR JOURNALIST DETAINED
Approximately 20 relatives of Gulchehra Hoja, a Uighur journalist living abroad, have been detained and are at risk of torture. Based in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China, her family members are all thought to have been targeted due to Gulchehra Hoja’s work. Gulchehra Hoja, a journalist based in the USA who has worked at Radio Free Asia’s Uyghur Service for 17 years, has been unable to contact her 72-year-old mother Qimangul Zikri since January 2018. Her mother had surgery on her foot in mid-January, and suffers from heart disease and diabetes. In addition, she has been unable to reach her father Abduqeyum Hoja, 77, who is currently in hospital partially paralyzed following a stroke. He now requires constant medical care. Her brother, Kaisar Keyum, who had been the primary care giver for their parents, was taken away by the authorities in October 2017. Believed to be detained at the XUAR No. 1 Detention Centre, it is unclear whether he has been detained through the formal criminal justice system, or not.
Gulchehra Hoja also learned from two reliable sources that approximately 20 other relatives have also been taken away by the authorities. Among these, seven cousins – Elshat Abduwali, Gheyret Abdurahman, Daniyar Abdukerim, Madina Mutalip, Mirzat Mutalip, Gulpiya Almas, Izhar Almas – were taken away by the authorities on 31 January and are being held at the Ghulja Yengi Hayat Prison, apparently due to being in a social messaging WeChat group with Gulchehra Hoja. An eighth cousin, Mehray Kahar, is being held in a facility in Urumqi.
Under the leadership of the regional Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, numerous detention facilities have been set up within the XUAR. Referred to as “counter extremism centres”, “political study centres”, or “education and transformation centres”, these are facilities in which people are arbitrarily detained for unspecified periods and forced to study Chinese laws and policies. People are often sent to these detention facilities if they are known religious practitioners, have relations with “foreign contacts”, or have themselves been caught up in social stability campaigns or have relatives who were involved in the same.