TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Chinese authorities released a video on Sunday ‘confirming’ Uighur poet and musician Abdurehim Heyit is still alive—something on which international experts still maintain uncertainty.
The video was posted to the Twitter page of state-owned broadcasting station China Radio International’s Turkish division.
In the short clip, Heyit declares, “Today is February 10, 2019. I’m in the process of being investigated for allegedly violating the national laws. I’m now in good health and have never been abused.”
Several aspects of the video, including its abruptness, have drawn doubt from critics. A representative from support network UyghurAid tweeted that Heyit looks like he was being coerced.
Heyit, once a celebrated musician across China who performed state-approved songs with national troupes, was arrested in 2017, around the beginning of the crackdown on Muslim citizens of China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Since 2017, Amnesty International estimates up to 1 million have been detained in “re-education” camps.
Heyit was reportedly imprisoned because of a poem he wrote entitled “Oh, Fathers!” which venerates Uighur ancestors for their sacrifices. Reports of his death surfaced Saturday.
Turkey spoke out on the matter after two years of silence following the crackdown, with foreign ministry Hami Aksoy stating, “The reintroduction of concentration camps in the 21st Century and the systematic assimilation policy of Chinese authorities against the Uighur Turks is a great embarrassment for humanity.”
We expect this legitimate response to be taken into account by the Chinese authorities. We respectfully commemorate Abdurehim Heyit and all our kinsmen who lost their lives defending their Turkish and Muslim identity,” he added.
Although several politicians, human rights groups and international media outlets have condemned China’s actions—with some comparing the crackdown to early European settler-colonialism and labeling it genocide—Muslim-majority countries have tended to remain silent. China has a huge amount of levity over parts of the Middle East as an important supplier of infrastructure, and in some instances, the beholder of a debt trap.
Earlier this month, Amnesty called for the United National Human Rights Council to launch an international fact-finding mission in Xinjiang. Between Feb. 25 and March 22, the Council will be reviewing allegations about China’s grave human rights abuses made during last year’s Universal Periodic Review.