Two brothers of US-based Journalist Eset Sulaiman have been detained by the authorities in China's Xinjiang as part of an intimidation campaign aimed at preventing him from reporting on rights abuses, according to Radio Free Asia.
Sulaiman is a Uyghurs Service editor at Radio Free Asia, which is funded by the United States government and is based in Washington.
Sulaiman's older brother Ehet, the 57-year-old director of the Tengritagh Township Teaching District in Kumul (in Chinese, Hami) prefecture, and his younger brother Ehmet, the 39-year-old head of Kumul's Tengritagh township, have both been detained since 2018, RFA recently learned after interviewing several local officials.
The two men and atleast five of the Sulaiman's cousins went missing after authorities in Xinjiang launched a campaign of mass extralegal incarceration that has seen up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities detained in a vast network of internment camps since early 2017.
Chinese officials have said the camps are centres for "vocational training," but reporting by RFA and other media outlets shows that detainees are mostly held against their will in cramped and unstary conditions, where they are forced to endure inhumane treatment--including systematic rape--and political indoctrination.
China declined to provide data on the number of people in the camps. Beijing had initially denied the very existence of the camps, but now claims that they are educational and vocational centres and that everyone has "graduated."
Uyghurs make up most of the one million people who the UN estimates have been held in camps in Xinjiang as part of what the central government calls a campaign against terrorism.
Also, Beijing has rejected calls for an independent UN investigation into Xinjiang's internment program. Journalists and diplomats are not allowed access to the camps outside of tightly controlled government tours.
Ablet Semet, a researcher based in Germany, who met with Ehet on several occasions beginning in 2007 while visiting Kumul prefecture, where the graduate of Xinjiang Normal University was considered a leading educator.
According to Semet, Ehet's office oversaw a junior high school and several elementary schools and had branches in Kumul city, as well as Tengritagh township.
Semet said that he had recently received information about the disappearance of Ehe as well as his brother Ehmet and several of their family members through sources in the XUAR capital Urumqi and in Kumul.
"When I heard the news that [Ehet] had disappeared for no reason around 2017, I was very angry and upset," Semet said, noting that Ehet had worked as the director of the Tengritagh teaching district since 1986.
RFA contacted a Han Chinese staff member at the Kumul branch of the Tengritagh Township Teaching District who initially said there was nobody by the name of Ehet Sulaiman working there. But when pressed for information about who from the office had been arrested or detained, he confirmed that Ehet had been.
He claimed not to know when Ehet was arrested and referred further questions to the Tengritagh Police Station.
When asked whether Ehet is currently serving as the director of the township's teaching district, an employee at the Tengritagh Police Station responded that he was unsure because "they don't tell us about people they've taken away."
( With inputs from ANI )
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