Intellectual and Celebrity Arrests

This timeline gives an overview of the arrest and incarceration of Uyghur intellectuals and celebrities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwestern China.

This is a partial overview and does not contain the complete list of notable people who have been arrested. See more at the Xinjiang Victims Database.


  • Gulmira Imin: Government employee and the moderator of Salkin, a Uyghur-language culture and news website. She participated in demonstrations against the deaths of Uyghur migrant workers in Guangdong in July 2009. She was arrested thereafter and sentence to life in prison for splittism, leaking state secrets, and organizing an illegal demonstration.

  • Abduweli Ayup: Poet, linguist, and Uyghur educator. He and two associates were raising funds to finance new schools that focused on teaching Uyghur language where he was arrested for illegal fund-raising. He was arrested in August 2013 and has remained in custody since.
  • Xi Jinping initiates the Strike Hard campaign against terrorism.

  • Ilham Tohti: Economist at the Minzu University of China who was arrested and sent to life imprisonment after his home was raided in 2014. Winner of the Sakharov Prize and the Vaclav-Havel Prize in 2019. Sentenced to life imprisonment.

  • Re-education camps undergo major expansions, where area sizes grow up to 269 percent in select regions.

  • Abdurehim Heyit: Uyghur singer and dutar musician arrested in early 2019, appears to have been released in late 2019. Tashpolat Teyip: Xinjiang University president and renowned geographer, arrested and later sentenced to death.

  • Arslan Abdulla: Former dean of Xinjiang University, missing since 2017 and is widely believed to be held in detention

  • Halmurat Ghopur: President of Xinjiang Medical University. Arrested in 2017, sentenced to death with reprieve.

  • Rahile Dawut: Xinjiang University anthropologist who specializes in Islamic shrines, traditional songs and folklore. She disappeared in December 2017 when travelling from Ürümqi to Beijing.

  • Adil Tuniyaz: Uyghur poet and son-in-law of Adil Tuniyaz, arrested in 2018 for promoting terrorism and religious extremism.

  • Muhammad Salih Hajim: Academic translator arrested and later found dead in custody in 2018.

  • Abdulqadir Jalaleddin: Xinjiang Normal University scholar of medieval Central Asian poetry who works to preserve Uyghur culture and identity. He was arrested after his house was raided and he has been held at an internment camp ever since.

  • Halide Israyil: Award-winning novelist, essayist, and retired editor at Xinjiang Daily. She wrote an award-winning novel depicting the Cultural Revolution in Xinjiang. She is currently interned at a camp.

  • Perhat Tursun: Poet, writer, and screenwriter who was acclaimed as the Uyghur Salman Rushdien. He disappeared in January 2018 and was reportedly given a 16-year prison sentence.

  • Ablajan Awut Ayup: Pop singer known as the “Uyghur Justin Bieber” known for songs intending to bridge cultural gaps between Han Chinese and Uyghurs. He was taken into custody by a state security unit and has been held in an internment camp ever since.

  • Qurban Mamut: Writer and magazine editor of the Communist Party-controlled magazine “Xinjiang Civilization” for 26 years before retiring in 2011. After visiting his family in the US for one month, he disappeared shortly after returning to the XUAR.

  • Chimengul Awut: Poet, editor in chief at the Kashgar Uyghur Publishing House. Arrested in July 2018 for allegedly editing a book that was problematic with authorities.

  • Sanubar Tursun: Iconic singer and Uyghur national symbol. Disappeared since November 2018 and was presumed to have been held in internment camps before she was listed for a show in Shanghai in November 2019.

References:

Abdulqadir Jalaleddin, China,” Scholars at Risk.

Abduweli Ayup,” Linguistic Society of America, 12 December 2014.

Buckley, Chris, and Austin Ramzy, “Star Scholar Disappears as Crackdown Engulfs Western China,” The New York Times, 10 August 2018.

Byler, Darren, “The Disappearance Of Perhat Tursun, One Of The Uyghur World’s Greatest Authors,” SupChina, 5 February 2020.

Chinese Court Frees Uyghur Linguist Following Appeal,” Radio Free Asia, 11 December 2012.

Feng, Emily, “Forced labour being used in China’s ‘re-education’ camps,” Financial Times, 15 December 2018.

Five Uyghur Professors from Xinjiang University Held in Political ‘Re-education Camps,’” Radio Free Asia, 18 September 2018.

Ghoja, Turdi, “The jailed folk singer at the front line of the Uighur struggle,” Al Jazeera, 16 March 2019.

Gulmira Imin,” Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Ilham Tohti Sentenced to Life Imprisonment,” Front Line Defenders, 18 January 2018.

Investigation: Uyghur Poet Detained for Editing Problematic Book,” Radio Free Asia, 13 November 2018.

Jacob, Andrew, “A Devotion to Language Proves Risky,” The New York Times, 11 May 2014.

Popular Uyghur Singer’s Whereabouts Unknown, Believed Detained in Xinjiang Re-Education Camp,” Radio Free Asia, 18 May 2018.

Prominent Uyghur Intellectual Given Two-Year Suspended Death Sentence For ‘Separatism,’” Radio Free Asia, 28 September 2018.

Uighur musician listed for China show year after disappearance,” France 24, 28 October 2019.

Uyghur Muslim Scholar Dies in Chinese Police Custody,” Radio Free Asia, 29 January 2018.

Xinjiang Arrests Nearly Doubled in ’14, Year of ‘Strike-Hard’ Campaign,” The Wall Street Journal, 23 January 2015.

Xinjiang Authorities Detain Almost Every Family Member of Late Uyghur Muslim Scholar,” Radio Free Asia, 25 September 2018.

Xinjiang Authorities Detain Prominent Uyghur Journalist in Political ‘Re-Education Camp,’” Radio Free Asia, 18 October 2018.