Families of former Uyghur textbook editors, who have been accused of incorporating ethnically charged and separatist views into classroom literature, say that a pro-Beijing media outlet's recent documentary grossly misrepresents them.
The Chinese state media last month aired a 10-minute documentary, accusing former Uyghur publishing officials and senior editors of incorporating extremist "separatist thoughts" into children's educational materials as early as 2003, wrote Asim Kashgarian for Voice of America.
Kamalturk Yalqun, son of the now-imprisoned editor Yalqun Rozi, said that reading the books was "purely a happy literary adventure" for him and there was nothing to incite hatred or radicalism.
He also described the documentary as more evidence of Beijing's efforts to mask its brutal campaign against the Uyghurs. He further said that he has not met his father since October 2016 when he was arrested.
"I almost failed to recognise when I first saw his photo displayed in the film. Clearly, there had been physical torture," Kamalturk told Voice of America.
According to Chinese media, the six Uyghur officials in 2017 were charged with attempting "to split the country". Sattar Sawut, the former director-general of Xinjiang Education Department, was reportedly given a death sentence with a two-year reprieve, while three other officials received life sentences, and the two editors received 15 years each.
"Some senior Chinese officials who worked on reviewing the textbooks were never mentioned in the documentary while their six Uyghur counterparts were singled out as separatist criminals is evidence that this is a sham trial," said Abduweli Ayup, a Norway-based Uyghur linguist and rights activist.
The textbooks introduce China as "the motherland" of all "56 ethnic groups," including both Uyghurs and Chinese. They also highlight essays of leading modern Chinese writers such as Lu Xun and include hagiographies of prominent Chinese figures, writes Kashgarian.
Aykanat Wahitjan, the daughter of Wahitjan Osman, a former senior editor accused in the film, highlighted that the same government had once broadcast her father's award ceremony for his "extraordinary literary work".
"In 2012, China awarded my father with its 10th Junma Award, a national literary award for his outstanding literary work... years later, the same [government] broadcasts that my father committed a crime because his literary work 'provoked ethnic hatred," she told Voice of America.
Beijing's documentary highlights the legendary story of seven Uyghur girls who resisted Manchu soldiers during the Qing empire conquest of the region in the 18th century. This has been referred to as a "clear lie" by James Millward, a professor of Chinese history at Georgetown University.
According to him, outlawing the textbooks is a part of China's recent effort to alter the historical narrative of key events and actions by Uyghur leaders.
This comes amid China facing global rebuke for cracking down on Uyghur Muslims by sending them to mass detention camps, interfering in their religious activities and sending members of the community to undergo some form of forcible re-education or indoctrination.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote in its International Religious Freedom Annual Report issued on April 28, 2020, that "individuals have been sent to the camps for wearing long beards, refusing alcohol, or other behaviours authorities deem to be signs of 'religious extremism.'"
( With inputs from ANI )
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