Day of the Imprisoned Writer | CHINA: Chimengül Awut

By | November 12, 2020 at 11:28 am | No comments | Campaigns | Tags: ,

Chimengül Awut is an editor and poet from Kashgar, southern Xinjiang. She published her first poem in 1987, at the age of fourteen, and has since developed a substantial body of work. In 2008, Chimengül’s collection of poetry received a prestigious Horse Award for national minority literature. At the time of her detention, Chimengül worked as an editor at the Kashgar Publishing House in Xinjiang. In July 2018, public security officials in Kashgar sent 13 employees of the Kashgar Publishing House, including Chimengül Awut, to Xinjiang’s ‘re-education’ camps. She was allegedly targeted because of her work editing a Uyghur-language novel called Golden Shoes (Altun Kesh) by Halide İsra’il, who also has been detained in Xinjiang’s ‘re-education’ camps. Owing to the extra-legal nature of the ‘re-education’ camps, she was not found guilty of committing a crime through any formal legal process and there is no official date for her release. All contact with the outside world is prohibited by the security services. Her current health and well-being are unknown. It is estimated that up to 1.8 million people like Chimengül could be held in a network of secretive ‘re-education’ camps. PEN considers Chimengül Awut’s persecution to be a clear breach of her right to freedom of expression and calls for her to be immediately and unconditionally released.

The following letter was written by Ma Thida, a founder and former president of PEN Myanmar.

*******

Dear Chimengül,

First, please accept my loving kindness to you from a writer who once shared your current experience although in a faraway place from where you are now.

I don’t know how to express my sincere concern about your current situation, but I know exactly how you would like to express your sincere urge for freedom. While I was in prison in Myanmar in mid-1990s, I didn’t know how many encouraging letters from all over the world through PEN International (and many other human rights organizations) had reached the dispatch of the prison where I was kept. Though I never had a chance to read those letters, just knowing about them after my release in 1999 filled me with heartfelt appreciation. I think you will also have similar feelings when you hear about my cry on the anguish of your detention. Belief in power and purity of words connect us though we have never met.  Please stay powerful and pure in your heart. Your thoughts and words can liberate you not from behind bars but they can be heard beyond stones and walls.

I will cry out these words for you, Chimengül.

Free Chimengül! Free her.

Best regards,

Ma Thida
PEN International Board member

 

Take Action for Chimengül Awut 

Name: Chimengül Awut

Occupation: Editor, award-winning Uyghur-language poet

Situation: Imprisoned without trial in ‘re-education camp’

#ImprisonedWriter #ChimengulAwut

Background 

The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (referred to as Xinjiang), situated along China’s North-Western border, occupies a unique position within the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Located at the PRC’s geographic periphery, it is both the PRC’s largest administrative region and one of its most sparsely populated. According to the 2010 population census, the region’s largest ethnic group is the Uyghur, a Sunni Muslim minority whose religious beliefs, language and cultural traditions share greater similarities with that of the populations of Xinjiang’s neighbouring Central Asian states than of the PRC’s Han majority population.

Ostensibly in an effort to mitigate the threat posed by what it refers to as the ‘three evils’ of separatism, terrorism and religious extremism in the region, in recent decades the Party-state government as pursued a course of ever-tightening restrictions on any activities associated with Uyghur cultural and religious identity. While many of these restrictions have been commonplace in Xinjiang for decades, the erosion of basic freedoms in the region has accelerated in recent years.

This is most starkly illustrated by the emergence of reports on the existence of an extensive network of ‘re-education’ camps in Xinjiang. With the absence of independently verified official figures on the numbers of those detained, scholars such as Adrian Zenz, whose research has done much to raise public awareness on the scale of the ‘re-education’ camps, have provided an upper estimate that as many as 1.8 million mostly Muslim detainees are in various forms of extrajudicial incarceration.

If the estimates are taken as accurate, this marks the largest systematic imprisonment of a minority population since the atrocities committed during World War 2 and represents close to a fifth of Xinjiang’s entire Uyghur population. The scale of what is being undertaken is without parallel in modern times and the impact on Uyghur culture has been devestating, with every strata of Uyghur society targeted for extra-legal imprisonment and forced indoctrination in an attempt to completely erase any element of the Uyghur identity that is viewed as problematic by the Party-state apparatus.

Further evidence of the extrajudicial nature of the Xinjiang ‘re-education’ camps emerged through reporting of two separate collections of leaked internal policy documents in November 2019. The documents provide numerous confirmatory details of the involuntary and extra-judicial nature of the re-education camps in Xinjiang, supports witness testimony, and challenges assertions made by the Chinese government that the camps provide voluntary training and education.

Send an appeal to the Chinese authorities.

Ask the authorities to:

  • Provide information on Chimengül Awut’s current status, and allow for independent verification.
  • Release Chimengül Awut and her colleagues immediately and unconditionally.
  • End the practice of extrajudicial detentions in Xinjiang.
  • End all policies that contravene China’s international human rights obligations to protect cultural freedoms.

Sample tweet:

Release #ChimengulAwut and stop harassing Uyghur writers. #ImprisonedWriter @mfachina [or Twitter handles for other contacts below]

President Xi Jinping – General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and President of the People’s Republic of China.

Address: General Secretary Office, Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Zhongnanhai Ximen, Fuyou Street, Xicheng District, Beijing 100017, People’s Republic of China

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mfa_china

CHEN Quanguo, Party Secretary of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

Address: Chinese Communist Party Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Party Committee, 2 Jiankang Road, Tianshan Qu, Urumqi, Xinjiang

Fax +86 0991-2391440; +86 0991-2398037; +86 0991-2827065

Ambassador CHEN Xu –Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations Office in Geneva.

Address: 350 East 35th Street, New York, NY 10016, USA.

Email: chinamissionspeaker@gmail.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Amb_ChenXu

Ambassador ZHANG Jun – Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations.

Address: 11, Chemin de Surville 1213 Petit-Lancy, Geneva, Switzerland.

Email: chinamissionun@gmail.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/chinaambun

Send copies to the diplomatic representatives in country:  https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/wjb_663304‌/zwjg_665342‌/2490_665344/

Tell others: share Chimengül’s case and her work

  • Publish articles and opinion pieces about this case in your national or local press;
  • Share information about Chimengül Awut and your campaigning via social media; please use #ImprisonedWriter and #ChimengulAwut
  • Organise public events, press conferences and demonstrations.

Give to our Day of Imprisoned Writer appeal

Imprisoned writers rely on PEN to advocate for their freedom and to defy those who want to silence them. From practical support for writers seeking asylum or in exile, to using our platforms to share their words, to putting pressure on the powerful – this work is only possible with your support. Give today

Photo credit: Tengritagh Akademiyesi

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