Uighur students abroad ordered to return home for political screening
Even students are not exempt from the religious persecution on the Uighurs. Source: Shutterstock

Chinese authorities are ordering Uighur students overseas to return to their hometown by May 20, as part of a government move to screen students’ political views and activities, according to sources in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and Egypt.

Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports some students’ family members are even being held hostage to this end. For those who return, some have disappeared or were thrown into jail, an Uighur student at Al-Azhar University in Egypt says.

“It seems everyone who went home from Egypt has simply vanished … We haven’t been able to contact any of them” an anonymous RFA source said.

“A friend of mine has returned because his parents, brother and sister were detained,” RFA’s source said.

China has around 20 million Muslims spread throughout the country, a portion of whom are the Uighurs, a Turkic-ethnic group native to Central and Eastern Asia. Xinjiang, where they primarily live, has seen unrest arising from the persecution the group has faced for years by the Chinese government through repressive policies, including restriction on the practice of their faith such as the ban on fasting during Ramadan.

Students are not exempt from the tension between the Uighur Muslims and Han Chinese, which has resulted in numerous riots and violent incidents. Uighur students in the region’s schools have been asked to report to authorities who in their family prays or wear the veil. Those studying overseas meanwhile have reported being spied on in their campuses abroad in an assessment of their political views.

Anti-China activities’

The recent call to return is described as a move to investigate the political views of these students by officers in China’s ruling Communist Party.

A police officer in the Kashgar Prefecture’s Peyziwat county said this was a directive “from the top” to find out students’ “political and ideological stance” as well as to “educate” them about China’s law and current issues.

“We have orders to enforce this policy. The directive came from the Uighur Autonomous Regional government,” a party secretary said.

Parents are advised to tell their children to not go “astray” or participate in any “anti-China activities” by a designated government official.

Among those ordered home are Uighurs studying as far as France and the United States, party officials at Barin’s villages told RFA. While some who returned home have since gone back to their country of study, others were less fortunate.

A woman from Xinjiang’s Hotan prefecture, Sumeyya was reported to be detained while her sister Subinur was sentenced to three years in jail for “political re-education”.

Another girl from Hotan, named Asma, is said to have been detained at the airport upon return.

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