Australian Uyghurs feel desperate for relatives “missing” in China Uyghur News
Melbourne, Australia – Yusuf Hussein is an Australian Uyghur citizen who lives in the small city of Adelaide.
He and his five children used to talk to their elderly parents every week, but since 2017, he has not been able to reach them.
“suddenly, [they] Disappeared and no one of them answered my call,” Hussain told Al Jazeera.
“They didn’t send me a message at all. I tried to send a message. None of them responded.”
A recent report by Human Rights Watch accused the Chinese government of committing “Crimes against humanity“It opposes the Uyghurs who are mainly Muslims in western Xinjiang.
Crimes include imprisonment, forced labor, sexual violence, torture, murder and enforced disappearance.
Hussein believes that his 85-year-old father, mother, and siblings have been transferred to what he calls “concentration camps”— The United Nations says it may hold 1 million Uyghurs in a large-scale detention center.
The Chinese government refers to such centers as “education” camps, which provide “Vocational skills training“.
Alim Osman, chairman of the Victorian Uyghur Association, said in a recent parliamentary survey that there are about 5,000 Uyghurs living in Australia, of which about 1,500 are believed to live in Adelaide. A south coast city with a population of 10,000.
Many Uighurs living in Australia have similar stories of relatives being detained or completely missing.
‘No one can give us the answer’
Like Hussein, 33-year-old Marhaba Yakub Salay is also a Uighur Australian citizen living in Adelaide, after immigrating to the country in 2011.
Her sister Maila Yakuf is currently detained in Xinjiang for the second time.
When Yakuf was released after 10 months of her first internship in 2017, Salay spoke with her on the phone for about 10 minutes.
During the conversation, Yakufu did not say where she had been.
“I want to ask her-where have you been in the past 10 months?” Salai told Al Jazeera.
“She didn’t say anything, but she said,’Don’t worry about us-the Chinese Communist Party [is] Take good care of us. ‘”
Salai believes that her sister is not calling from home, but from another place under government supervision.
That was their last conversation. In May 2019, Yajub was arrested again.
According to an email from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) seen by Al Jazeera, Salay’s sister was arrested for “suspicion of financing terrorist activities.”
Salay explained that the accusation was based on the money her sister gave to their parents, who also live in Adelaide.
Salai told Al Jazeera that the money was not used for terrorism, but for buying a house.
“We got all the evidence here,” Salay said. “This is black and white evidence-but the Chinese government still accuses my sister of supporting terrorism overseas.”
Salai believes that these allegations were fabricated by the Chinese government to detain her Uyghur sister. The DFAT email stated that her sister is likely to be detained in a “traditional prison, not a re-education camp.”
Almas Nizanidin also has a relative, a Uighur Australian citizen, who “disappeared.”
In 2017, his 29-year-old wife Buzainafu Abudourexiti was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for what he called “no charges” and “no evidence”.
Nizanidin originally planned to return to China to help his wife immigrate to Australia. He has lived there since 2009, but she was detained before he did so, and he does not know her whereabouts.
“[The Chinese authorities] Won’t tell me anything. They told us’this is an order from the superior’,” he told Al Jazeera.
“I’m everywhere [in China] No one can give me the answer. “
Nizanidine said his mother, a 55-year-old high school math teacher, was also arrested and sent to a detention center for more than two years.
She was finally released last year, but Nizanedin said that although he had talked with his mother on the phone since, she would not disclose her experience.
“She was shocked, she was scared. She didn’t want to say anything,” he said.
“She told me,’Quiet, keep quiet. Do your own thing-don’t say anything against the Chinese government.'”
Hussein, Salay and Nizanidin all told Al Jazeera that the Australian Federal Government has provided support for investigating what happened to their loved ones.
However, Nizanidine said that due to its close economic and trade relations with China, the Australian government is cautious on the issue of the disappearance and detention of Uyghurs.
This is Salay’s common feeling.
“I know money talks sometimes. But money must be clean, right?” She told Al Jazeera.
China is Australia’s largest trading partner, with exports of 168 billion Australian dollars (128.6 billion US dollars) in 2019-20, which is equivalent to one third of Australia’s total global trade.
Recently, Australia’s call for an investigation into the origin of the Chinese coronavirus and allegations of forced labor by Chinese companies in Xinjiang have led to further scrutiny of Australia’s trade agreements and this trade relationship has deteriorated.
At the end of 2020, a report revealed that the Victorian government, Australia’s second most populous state, had a deal with a Chinese railway company related to forced Uyghur labor.
The Australian Institute for Strategic Policy (ASPI) report “Uyghurs for Sale” identified 82 foreign and Chinese companies that “may directly or indirectly benefit from the use of Uyghur workers outside Xinjiang in 2019 through an abusive labor transfer program.”
The companies mentioned in the report include CRRC, which ASPI said is part of a 2 billion Australian dollars (1.5 billion US dollars) contract to build 65 trains for the Victorian government.
A spokesperson said in a statement to Al Jazeera that the Victorian government is “deeply concerned about allegations of forced labor by companies related to the Victorian train project”.
The statement added that the government has “received repeated assurances from manufacturers that there is no evidence of forced labor in their supply chain”.
Although the opposition has called for evidence of such assurances, it has not yet provided any evidence.
Instead, Opposition Secretary of Transportation David Davis took dramatic steps to obtain such evidence through civil court procedures.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Davis admitted that it is “difficult to overlook the supply chain” to find evidence of forced labor.
However, he also said, “If the minister is assured [that Uighur forced labour was not being used] We want to see what this guarantee is and ask why the government “fights desperately” to conceal such evidence.
Together with the governments of the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada Recently pressured China on its treatment of Uyghur minorities, Hussein, Sale and Nizanidine all believe that the Australian government should follow suit.
“The Australian government can admit that this is a genocide and pressure the Chinese government to release my sister,” Sale said.
For the three of them, the problem is simple and very human: the three Australian citizens still lost contact with their relatives.
“I have to talk to my wife,” Salay said. “I just want to reunite with my family.”
The pain of separation During the recent Eid al-Fitr, the situation deteriorated further.
“Today is our Eid al-Fitr, we used to call them and talk to them [our family],” Hussein told Al Jazeera.
“But we are crying. Even my child—our eldest son is 11 years old—she asked:’Where is my grandpa? Where is my grandmother?'”