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China accused in death of Uyghur researcher returning from Japan: Report

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ANI | Updated: Jul 04, 2021 00:30 IST

Beijing [China], July 4 (ANI): Amid China’s increasing repression of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, the suspicious death of Uyghur plant biology researcher in December 2020 at a detention facility in the province has drawn attention on social media, according to a report in Voice of America (VOA).

Mihriay Erkin, 29, left her job at Japan’s Nara Technology and Science Institute in June 2019 and returned to China over concerns about the safety of her parents in Xinjiang province. She was arbitrarily detained and sent to the Yanbulaq detention center in Kashgar in February 2020.

Meanwhile, Erkin relatives blame Chinese authorities for her death, which they say they learned about only recently. China denies all allegations pertaining to the persecution of Uyghurs and calls the internment camps “vocational institutes” that deradicalize extremists.

“I learned the news almost six months after my niece Mihriay was killed by Chinese authorities, but I still don’t know if she has an actual grave or not,” VOA quoted Abduweli Ayup, Erkin’s uncle and a Norway-based Uyghur rights activist as saying.

Ayup launched a social media campaign last week with Uyghur activists to highlight Erkin and demand that China disclose the circumstances surrounding her death.

Mihriay Erkin’s father, Erkin Ayup, a former Chinese government official, and her aunt, Sajidigul Ayup, a former high school teacher, had been detained by Chinese authorities for almost two years in Xinjiang when Mihriay decided to leave Japan in 2019, reported VOA.

However, the oldest of two siblings, Erkin moved to Japan in 2014 to pursue a master’s degree in plant biology at Tokyo University.

Abduweli Ayup said he warned Erkin against returning to Xinjiang, but she ignored the advice after local Chinese police used her mother to lure her back. Her last words to him before she left were, “If I die, if I have a grave, a bouquet of peonies will mark my grave.””My niece died in [a] detention center, and her father and aunt were sentenced to 12 and 14 years in prison,” he said. He added that it was unclear whether Erkin’s mother and brother were also detained, as he has lost contact with them.

Citing the report July 10 by Amnesty International, VOA reported that China’s extreme measures toward Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang constitute “crimes against humanity.””Chinese authorities have built one of the world’s most sophisticated surveillance systems and a vast network of hundreds of grim ‘transformation-through-education’ centers — actually, internment camps — throughout Xinjiang,” the report said. (ANI)

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