US State Department Urged to Intervene in Case of Uyghur Jailed After Joining Visitor Program

Sandra Loyd

The U.S. State Department is dealing with increasing calls to pressure China to launch a Uyghur business owner who was sentenced to 15 years in jail after he went to Washington to participate in the firm’s International Visitor Management Program (IVLP).

Ekpar Asat, a 34- year-old business person who developed an effective Uyghur social media platform called Bagdax, took a trip to the U.S. in February 2016 to sign up with a three-week journalism training as part of his approval to the IVLP, which he had actually used to at the support of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

While engaged with the IVLP, which the State Department states has actually trained more than 225,000 foreign nationals considering that it was developed in 1940, Asat and 8 others consulted with a number of reporters at a number of organizations in Washington and 5 U.S. states.

He likewise consulted with his older sibling, 36- year-old Reyhan Asat, who was ending up a Master of Laws program at Harvard University– the first Uyghur to research study law at the school. She stated that he had actually been motivated by the IVLP and had actually protected a visa to return with their moms and dads in Might of that year to see her graduate and remain for the summertime.

Nevertheless, weeks after Ekpar Asat returned home to Urumqi, the capital of northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Area (XUAR), his family canceled their prepared journey to the U.S. and he went missing out on in April.

It was just in January this year that the Chinese Embassy in Washington acknowledged that Ekpar Asat had actually been sentenced to 15 years in jail on charges of “inciting ethnic hatred” after Ambassador Cui Tiankai was sent out a bipartisan letter from 7 U.S. legislators on Reyhan Asat’s behalf, prompting China to release him.

Reyhan Asat informed RFA’s Uyghur Service that while her sibling is innocent of the charges versus him, even if he had “incited ethnic hatred” a typical sentence would have been 3 years in jail, while an optimal penalty would bring 10 years.

“This doesn’t even follow their own law … A 15-year sentence doesn’t make sense here,” she stated.

Rather, Reyhan Asat thinks her sibling, who she stated routinely worked to enhance ties in between Uyghurs and bulk Han Chinese, was targeted for participating in the IVLP.

‘Unable to verify’

The State Department should take a more active role in protecting Ekpar Asat’s release, she added, recommending that the firm must be raising the profiles of program individuals as added security for their wellness if they run the risk of persecution back home.

” I hope that the State Department puts my sibling’s case on their program which they welcome [Cui Tiankai] to discuss his instant release,” she stated.

“What I mean to say is that they must join Congress and we must work quickly to save my brother. The State Department must take immediate responsibility for its own role in this.”

In a current declaration, State Department representative Morgan Ortagus stated her firm is “closely tracking” Ekpar Asat’s case, including that it had “raised his case directly” with the Chinese federal government and “will continue to do so.”

” Sadly, due to tight [People’s Republic of China] manages on info, we have actually been not able to individually validate his present status and location, however we regularly push the PRC for this info whenever we raise his case,” she stated.

She likewise urged Beijing to “immediately release all those arbitrarily detained” in the XUAR, consisting of an approximated 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities thought to have actually been apprehended in a huge network of some 1,300 internment camps in the area considering that April 2017.

While Beijing at first rejected the presence of the camps, China in 2015 altered tack and started explaining the centers as “boarding schools” that supply professional training for Uyghurs, dissuade radicalization, and assist secure the nation from terrorism.

However reporting by RFA and other media outlets suggest that those in the camps are apprehended versus their will and subjected to political brainwashing, consistently deal with rough treatment at the hands of their overseers and sustain unclean conditions and bad diet plans in the often-overcrowded centers.

While Ortagus did not comment on Ekpar Asat’s involvement in the IVLP or whether it might be the factor he was targeted, other State Department authorities have actually made the claim that there is no direct proof that participating in the program straight led to his disappearance.

Ekpar Asat is not the first Uyghur to have actually vanished after getting involved in activities arranged by the StateDepartment Ababekri Muhtar, creator of the Misranim website, was likewise put behind bars in April 2016 after consulting with then-U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke throughout Locke’s 2014 go to to the XUAR and later on going to the U.S. on a two-week trip established by the firm.

Immediate action appeal

Recently, London-based rights group Amnesty International released an “urgent action” appeal to Chinese President Xi Jinping on Ekpar Asat’s behalf, requiring his genuine and instant release and, pending his release, prompting authorities to enable him gain access to to his family and a legal representative of his option.

Francisco Bencosme, director for Amnesty’s Asia-Pacific advocacy, informed RFA the Uyghur business owner had actually been “doing what he was supposed to do” and typically showing commitment to the Chinese federal government.

“But it seems like the only thing he did wrong was participate in the State Department International Visitor Leadership Program, which should not be reason enough for him to go missing and for him to be sentenced as unjustly as he did,” he stated.

“And obviously, he’s still missing, and it’s heartbreaking to see his family still asking for his release. It’s clear that it’s part of a larger campaign against Uyghurs and other ethnic Muslims by the Chinese government.”

Bencosme stated Amnesty is worried that Ekpar Asat was sentenced covertly which he was targeted regardless of being “a model citizen.”

“Given that he is an alumni of the IVLP program, and also that it’s part of a larger serious concern and human rights issue that’s going on in China, his case and all the other cases need to be elevated at the highest levels of the State Department—it should be at the forefront of our U.S.-China policy,” he stated.

“It’s not just the State Department—it also needs to be elevated by the White House, all the way to the top. The President of the United States needs to raise this with President Xi, because nobody should be arbitrarily detained or lack justice simply for participating in a cultural exchange program.”

‘Take responsibility’

Washington-based Uyghur lawyer Nury Turkel informed RFA that if Ekpar Asat’s case goes unsettled, it would amount to a stain on the IVLP, including that the onus is on the State Department to safe and secure his release.

“Now it’s understood that there’s a relationship between Ekbar Asat’s case and the U.S. State Department, and it’s the first such case for which there is proof,” he stated.

“If the U.S. government had not brought this man here, it’s possible to say that he might not have been imprisoned. If the State Department were to take responsibility and try to resolve this, if they were to have the intention to resolve this, if nothing else they should be able to get him out of prison.”

Mass imprisonments in the XUAR, in addition to other policies seen to break the rights of Uyghurs and other Muslims, have actually led to increasing calls by U.S. authorities to hold Beijing liable for its actions in the area, consisting of from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, and a number of legislators.

Recently, the U.S. Senate passed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 that would sanction Chinese federal government authorities accountable for approximate imprisonment, required labor and other abuses in the XUAR and needs routine tracking of the circumstance there by U.S. federal government bodies, when signed into law by President Donald Trump.

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, the author of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act in your house of Representatives, stated he was looking for fast passage of the costs, which he called “an important bipartisan statement recognizing that the mass surveillance and internment of Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities is unconscionable and we cannot be silent when faced with such horrific atrocities.”

“The situation in the Xinjiang region has become even more dire since the legislation was first introduced, with systematic forced labor now allowing the Chinese government and companies to profit from mass detention. If we are truly committed to stopping these atrocities, passing this legislation has to be a starting point, not our last word or action,” he informed RFA.

Reported by Jilil Kashgary and Alim Seytoff for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Equated by Elise Anderson. Composed in English by Joshua Lipes.

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