My interviews with a handful of Uyghurs living in Sweden, suffering from China’s religious crackdown in Xinjiang

Two weeks ago, The Diplomat published a long feature of mine with the title ”China’s Uyghur Crackdown Goes Global”. The text is still behind a paywall, but the magazine have now allowed me to publish the PDF here on my blog.

The ongoing religious repression in the Xinjiang region have been drawing a lot of attention lately. Not only do Chinese authorities lock up around a million ethnic muslims in political camps in Western China. They also persecute Uyghurs who are living abroad, by retaliating on their relatives would the exiles not cooperate by spying or in other ways cooperate with the regime.

To prove this phenomenon, a handful of Uyghurs living in Sweden agreed to be interviewed this summer when I was visiting Stockholm. Some of them are Swedish citizens, others have a resident permit and one of them refugee status.

What they all have in common is that the Chinese regime have been punishing their families back in China. One man have had over 20 relatives disappeared without a trace in the past year alone. Another man got told by his sister that their parents were locked up just because he applied for asylum in Sweden.

The beginning of the feature reads as follows:

Life didn’t turn out as Wumaerjiang Jiamali had expected. He got the opportunity to leave western China in 2014 to attend university studies in Istanbul. Four years later he is a refugee in northern Sweden. His son is locked up in their home province of Xinjiang, and Wumaerjiang no longer has any contact with the rest of his family.

With tired but sharp eyes, Wumaerjiang explained how everything suddenly turned into a nightmare when he allowed his then 16-year-old son, who had moved with him to Istanbul, to board a flight back to China in December 2015 to visit his mother. “My son disappeared as soon as he landed in China,” Wumaerjiang said. “When the family came to meet him at the airport, he just didn’t show up, and the family got no information on his whereabouts.”

As you can see, some of the interviewees have agreed to use their full names and even photographs. This is of course a decision carrying great personal risk, but many of the Uyghurs I talked to are so frustrated at this point that they feel there is not much left to lose.

Read the entire text as PDF below, or in a larger version via Scribd:

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