Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

China releases video of Uighur poet 'in good health' amid Turkey criticism

Ankara called on Beijing to close its internment camps after reports of poet's death in custody

A screengrab from a Chinese state media video release purporting to show Uighur poet and musician Abdurehim Heyit in good health.
A screengrab from a Chinese state media video release purporting to show Uighur poet and musician Abdurehim Heyit in good health.

Chinese state media released a video on Monday claiming Uighur poet and musician Abdurehim Heyit is alive in response to Turkish media reports of his death in custody and criticism from Turkey of "human rights violations" against Muslims in Xinjiang.

The 26-second video posted online by China Radio International's Turkish language service showed a man dressed in a grey sweater identifying himself as Heyit before declaring himself to be in "good health".

"Today is February 10, 2019," he said. "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."

The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Saturday called on Beijing to close its internment camps for Muslims, saying the camps said to hold a million ethnic Uighurs are a "great shame for humanity".

That statement had come in response to a question about recent reports that Heyit, a well-known poet and musician, had died while in detention, having been "sentenced to eight years in prison for one of his songs".

"This tragedy has further reinforced the reaction of the Turkish public opinion towards serious human rights violations committed in the Xinjiang region," ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said on Sunday.

China's embassy in Ankara said Mr Aksoy's accusations were false and urged the Turkish government to retract them.

Uighur diaspora activists said Heyit's body language and unnatural speech patterns in the video suggested his testimony may have been coerced and that even digital alteration could not be ruled out.

International rights groups say China routinely coerces detainees into making videotaped confessions which are then broadcast through state media to serve the government's propaganda objectives.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry and Xinjiang's regional government did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.

Beijing has faced an outcry from activists, foreign governments and UN rights experts over what they call mass detentions and strict surveillance of the mostly Muslim Uighur minority in Xinjiang.

China denied the existence of the so-called "re-education" facilities for months before saying they were in fact vocational training centres designed to combat religious extremism, and has increasingly been on the front-foot in defending its actions.

Updated: February 11, 2019 12:09 PM

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