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Uyghur Carpenter Serves Third Stint in Detention in China’s Xinjiang Region

Uyghur carpenter Arkin Inminjan and his child - Courtesy of Arkin's Iminjan's former classmate
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Shohret Hoshur | Radio Free Asia

A Uyghur who spent eight years in state custody during two separate prison terms on different charges in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region was detained a third time in September, according to a source with knowledge of the situation and police in his hometown.

Authorities first detained Arkin Iminjan, who lived in Jaghistay township, Chapchal Xibe (in Chinese, Chabuchaer Xibo) county, in Ili Kazakh (Yili Hasake) Autonomous Prefecture, during the aftermath of violent unrest in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi on July 5, 2009, which left hundreds of Uyghurs dead.

Arkin was sentenced to six years in prison for disrupting public order and attempting to divide the country for having “illegal materials” on his cell phone, said a former schoolmate who learned of his ordeal through other former fellow students from Chapchal Xibe county.

After his release, Arkin, who has a middle-school education, earned a living by doing carpentry work and cooking, he said. The man refrained from using a cell phone until after he got married and had a child.

In 2017, authorities detained Arkin a second time because he was a former prisoner, said his former classmate.

He spent two years in a detention camp, part of a network of internment centers for Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang set up by the Chinese government under the pretext of providing vocational training to prevent religious extremism and terrorism.

“He had been complaining that he had been in prison for six years without a reason and was still trying to get compensation from the government,” Arkin’s former classmate told RFA. “While he was attempting to do so, he was detained again. He was taken away from his home for ‘15-day study’ and released exactly two years later.”

The repression of the Uyghurs has gotten progressively worse since then.

China has held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and others in the camps since 2017, while dismissing widely documented evidence that it has mistreated Muslims living inside and outside the camps – including testimony from former detainees and guards describing widespread abuses in interviews with RFA and other media outlets.

Authorities detained Arkin, now 33, a third time on Sept. 1, placing a black hood over his head and whisking him away to a police station, said the former classmate, adding that the arrest resulted from a phone call Arkin had with a “marked” person.

A police officer in Jaghistay township confirmed that authorities had taken Arkin into custody in September, but he said he was unaware of the reason for his detention.

“I think it’s maybe been about a month,” he said when asked when Arkin was arrested. The officer also confirmed that Arkin was sent to a re-education facility in 2017.

About 20 percent of the Uyghur population in Jaghistay township has been detained since 2017, Arkin’s former classmate said.

“This means that one in five of our neighbors became a marked person, so it was impossible to avoid contact with marked persons in the region,” he said.

“I believe that, actually, the officials wanted to detain Arkin again in order to meet official quotas on the numbers of Uyghurs to detain,” he added.

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