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No one outside the Chinese government knows where Tashpolat Tiyip is. No one knows exactly what charges have been filed against him. The only thing that anyone really knows is that in April 2017, as the geographer and former president of Xinjiang University in Ürümqi prepared to fly from Beijing to Berlin for a scientific conference and the launch of a research center, he disappeared without even a phone call to colleagues or family.
Six months later, a Chinese propaganda video emerged saying Tiyip was one of 88 scholars who had “deeply poisoned the minds” of students by approving textbooks with too much content from Uyghur sources—the ethnic group that makes up about half of Xinjiang province’s 24 million people. The video calls Tiyip and three other Uyghurs “two-faced” separatists before announcing their sentence: death, with a 2-year reprieve.
China - Crackdown - Minorities - Province - Xinjiang
China’s crackdown on mostly-Muslim minorities in the far western province of Xinjiang, which include the Turkic-speaking Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyz, has swept up as many as 1 million people. But Tiyip is one its best-known victims. Scientific organizations outside of China are trying to help him and other internationally known researchers who have disappeared. But many are moving cautiously, worried about making things worse. And it’s unclear whether, in China’s current political climate, such support from abroad makes any difference.
Since late 2016, China has detained as many as one in 11 Uyghurs in Xinjiang, most in grim re-education camps with barbed wire fences and guard towers. There, they learn party slogans and songs, and study the Chinese language. Government officials say the camps are necessary to crack down on 20 years of “violent terrorism” in the region. But human rights groups say the operation is an attempt to erase Uyghur culture and traditions; some call it “cultural genocide.”
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