A police chief in Xinjiang who expressed concerns over the mass detention and possible deaths of his fellow Uyghurs in internment camps reportedly ended up becoming a detainee himself.
Himit Qari, 45, who oversees the Ucha township in Kuchar county, Aksu prefecture, allegedly criticized policies that have rounded up some 1.5 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities such as Kazakhs and Uzbeks since April 2017, while attending a party earlier this year.
The Kuchar County Public Security Bureau then summoned Qari for questioning weeks later, a source from the area told Radio Free Asia.
According to the source, the 45-year-old police chief was taken to prison amid the ongoing investigation into his case and has been accused of “revealing state secrets.”
The source, who spoke to RFA on condition of anonymity, claimed that Qari also stated during the party that “many people died” at the internment camp in Ucha, where he had led the Uyghur crackdown prior to 2017 and enforced policies in the years after.
“He was detained because he expressed sympathy towards detainees who died in the camp,” an officer from the Kuchar County Public Security Bureau told RFA, providing no further details.
Last month, a drone video that appeared to show hundreds of blindfolded men being led from a train in China raised concerns over the tightening Uyghur crackdown in Xinjiang.
The men, whose heads had been shaved and had their hands bound behind their backs, wore purple and orange vests with the words “Kashgar Detention Center.”
Kashgar, dubbed as an “oasis city” in Xinjiang, previously served as a convergence point of various cultures and empires, even becoming a battleground for numerous conflicts.
The city, now ruled as a county-level unit of China, serves as the capital of the Kashgar Prefecture and holds a Special Economic Zone status since 2010 — making it the only location in western China with such a distinction.
Verifying the authenticity of the video proved to be a difficult task for news outlets. Chinese Foreign Ministry officials also declined to comment on the matter.
“War on Fear,” the YouTube account that uploaded the footage, described it as a demonstration of the “long-term suppression of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Chinese government in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.”
In a statement to CNN earlier this month, Xinjiang authorities claimed that “cracking down on crimes in accordance with law is the common practice of all countries.”
“Xinjiang’s crackdown on crimes has never been linked to ethnicities or religions,” it added. “Transporting inmates by judicial authorities (is related) to normal judicial activities.”
Aside from the alleged suppression of rights and mistreatment in internment camps, Uyghur detainees are also believed to be subjected to forced labor, with their products now reportedly heading to the U.S. and other countries.
On Oct. 1, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported that it halted garments from China’s Hetian Taida Apparel — headquartered in Xinjiang — over concerns that they had been “produced from prison or forced labor.”
The Associated Press also reported that the shipments appear to be baby pajamas bound for Costco, and suspects that they were made from a different factory than the one cited in CBP’s detention order.
As China rules over Xinjiang with an iron fist, Qari’s future, as well as those of other detainees, remain unclear.
Image via Getty (representation only)