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Uyghur Evictee Detained

August 12, 2010

August 11, 2010

HONG KONG -- Authorities in Beijing are holding
an 84-year-old Uyghur farmer after he traveled to
the capital to lodge an official protest over the
loss of his farmland, the man and his son said.

Abdurehim Mollek, a Muslim Uyghur from Aksu
prefecture in the troubled northwestern region of
Xinjiang, was being held by police after being
taken from his motel room in the eastern Beijing suburb of Weigongcun, he said.

Traveling with his 29-year-old son, Abdurehim
Mollek said Sunday he had already been detained
without trial for two years by authorities in
Aksu's Onsu county after he tried to petition
over the actions of local officials.

"We are in the Xinjiang Affairs Department’s
motel with dozens of other Uyghur petitioners. I
am allowed go out to the yard of the motel, but
my father is not. There are two guards at the
motel door who are always watching us. Probably
in the next few days the police will come from
Aksu to return us there," his son said.

"The Xinjiang Affairs Department usually holds us
until the local officials come to take us away.
That's how it has worked most of the previous 10
times," he said, referring to earlier trips his
father had made to Beijing to petition.

Abdurehim Mollek's son said they had been
planning to petition publicly at Tiananmen Square
or at an international news bureau to make their voices heard.

An officer who answered the phone at the
Wanshousi police station in Beijing confirmed Abdurehim Mollek's detention.

"Yes, yes, that's right... He is a petitioner. It
says so in the system," the officer said. "The
system has identified him as a key petitioner."

Taken from motel

He described their detention Monday by regular
police officers at their motel in the capital.

"Three Beijing policemen came to our motel room
in the morning [at 9 a.m.] and checked our
documents," Abdurehim Mollek's son said.

"Abdurehim Mollek showed the police our IDs and
papers about our case. Then the police took us to their office."

"They asked no questions and conducted no
investigation. We were not allowed to have any
food to eat. We were finally released at 6 p.m.," he said.

The father and son were placed in the custody of
two police officers, a Uyghur and Han Chinese,
who brought them to the Xinjiang Affairs
Department and placed them, under guard, in a
motel room at the department's headquarters.

"Regardless of whether the authorities agree to
solve our problem, we will stay here. If we go
back [to our hometown], we might be detained or
sentenced. The last time [my father] was brought
back home, he was detained in a mental hospital
for 60 days. [The police said] if we petition
again, we will be detained in a mental hospital permanently,” his son said.

Years of petitioning

Abdurehim Mollek has been petitioning ever since
local officials in Kizil [in Chinese, Qingnian]
village took over 220 mu (36 acres) of his farmland in 1997.

His property was part of a total 3,000 mu (494
acres) of land which belonged to 20 Uyghur
farmers, taken by local officials and sold to a
Chinese farmer surnamed Chen who had recently
settled in the village from another province.

The land was later resold to another Chinese
farmer surnamed Lu, who is the current owner.

Abdurehim Mollek said the two Chinese farmers are
close relatives of village chief Han Guoming,
although calls to the village office to confirm this went unanswered.

After being provided only a portion of his
promised compensation, Abdurehim Mollek
petitioned local and provincial authorities for 10 years.

In 2007, he began to petition the central
government and has since traveled to Beijing 11 times to plead his case.

In 2008, he was held without trial in a detention
center in Onsu county for two years. His most
recent visit to Beijing was his second trip in
three months, and the second since his release.

After his previous trip to the capital, Abdurehim
Mollek was forcibly repatriated to Aksu
prefecture and held in a local mental hospital for 60 days.

He has been returned to Xinjiang under police
guard nearly every time he has petitioned the central government.

Other petitioners targeted

Mamut Rozi, a Uyghur from Yarkent county, in
Xinjiang's western Kashgar prefecture, is also
currently in Beijing petitioning the central
government over the forced sale of his land by
local officials to a resettled Chinese farmer.

In a telephone interview, Mamut Rozi said he
feared being forcibly repatriated to Yarkent by local authorities.

Two of his Uyghur roommates in Beijing were
arrested by Xinjiang provincial police and taken to Aksu prefecture.

The roommates, former workers at an Aksu sugar
factory, had been chosen as representatives by a
group of 200 workers recently fired by the plant
to petition authorities in the capital over the loss of their jobs.

"[The police] said to my roommates, 'Why are you
organizing others to petition? Why don't you just
take care of your own case? We're arresting you
for illegal organizing,'" Mamut Rozi said.

"I couldn't hold back my tears as I saw them handcuffed by the police."

'Cause for concern'

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Munich-based
World Uyghur Congress, said petitioners like
Abdurehim Mollek are highly vulnerable to
arbitrary detentions by Beijing authorities if
they tried to complain about their local government in the capital.

"And after they get sent back [to Xinjiang] they
become a real cause for concern," Raxit said.

"Every time a Uyghur is sent back to Xinjiang,
they are either sentenced to labor camp, or they
suffer some kind of economic punishment."

Dilxat Raxit said this was routine. "All Uyghurs
in this situation who get sent back home end up
suffering for it to a greater or lesser degree.

"Many petitioners who travel to Beijing to
complain from all over China are picked up by
officials from their hometowns, who run
representative offices in the capital for this
purpose, and escorted back home, where they can
face beatings, surveillance, and further detention.

China’s army of petitioners say they are
repeatedly stonewalled, detained in "black
jails," beaten, and harassed by authorities if
they try to take a complaint against local
government actions to a higher level of government.

Millions of Uyghurs -- a distinct, Turkic
minority who are predominantly Muslim -- populate Central Asia and the XUAR.

Uyghurs say they have long suffered ethnic
discrimination, oppressive religious controls,
and continued poverty and joblessness despite
China's ambitious plans to develop its vast northwestern frontier.

Those frustrations erupted in July 2009 in deadly
riots that left nearly 200 people dead, by the Chinese government's tally.

Chinese authorities blame Uyghur separatists for
a series of deadly attacks in recent years and
accuse one group in particular of maintaining
links to the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Original reporting in Uyghur by Shohret Hoshur
and in Mandarin by Qiao Long. Translated by
Luisetta Mudie and Shohret Hoshur. Written in
English by Joshua Lipes and Luisetta Mudie.
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