Chinese Communists Arrest Many Uyghur Muslim Entrepreneurs

(p. A7) In the summer of 2018, Sadir Eli, a Uyghur businessman, was in high spirits. His real-estate firm was pulling in strong profits, and he told his daughter he would buy a house for her in Massachusetts.

Then, Mr. Eli was accused of being a separatist and disappeared into the black box of China’s prison system in the northwest Xinjiang region.

“He did not engage in politics,” said Maria Mohammad, who last heard from her husband in June 2018, shortly before he was detained. Instead, she believes, Mr. Eli was targeted in part because he was a rich businessman, giving him influence that the authorities viewed as a threat.

The Xinjiang government didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Eli’s fate brings to life an overlooked element of China’s suppression of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang: the arrests of elite Uyghur business owners whose wealth and commercial interests enabled them to act as a bridge between Chinese authorities and Uyghur civil society. Some scholars saw them as helping narrow the economic gap between China’s Han majority and Xinjiang’s mostly Muslim ethnic minorities—a disparity that has fueled tensions in the strategically vital but fractious northwestern region.

The predecessor of Chinese leader Xi Jinping had envisioned economic development as the “foundation to solving all problems” in Xinjiang, a view more or less held by Beijing for more than a decade. But under Mr. Xi’s drive for national unity and assimilation, Chinese authorities have changed tack, making security and social control the region’s top priorities.

. . .

Nearly one-fifth of 4,572 people tracked in a database of individuals who have disappeared into Xinjiang’s internment camps and prisons made their livings in private business, according to nonprofit Uyghur Hjelp. The research and advocacy group, which shared its data with The Wall Street Journal, compiled the information through interviews with relatives and friends.

For the full story, see:

Eva Xiao. “Crackdown Hits Uyghur Entrepreneurs.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, July 14, 2021): A7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated July 13, 2021, and has the title “China Locks Up Uyghur Businessmen; ‘In Their Eyes, We Are All Guilty’.”)

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