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China confirms Uighur doctor jailed for 'terrorism'

01 January 2021, MVT 19:27
Members of the Muslim Uighur minority hold placards as they demonstrate in front of the Chinese consulate on December 30, 2020, in Istanbul, to ask for news of their relatives and to express their concern after China announced the ratification of an extradition treaty with Turkey. - The Chinese parliament ratified on December 26, 2020 an extradition treaty signed in 2017 with Ankara, a text that Beijing wants to use in particular to speed up the return of certain Muslim Uyghurs suspected of "terrorism" and who are refugees in Turkey. But the head of Turkish diplomacy said on December 30, 2020 that Ankara was not going to return Muslim Uyghurs to China, despite Beijing's ratification of an extradition treaty that worries the 50,000 members of this community who have taken refuge in the country. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP)
01 January 2021, MVT 19:27

A Uighur Muslim doctor has been jailed on terrorism charges, Beijing confirmed Thursday, a day after her family told US politicians she had been sentenced to 20 years.

Gulshan Abbas vanished into detention two years ago, but her relatives told a US congressional committee Wednesday that the 58-year-old had been sentenced to 20 years in prison because of activism on behalf of Uighurs.

Rights groups say an estimated one million Uighurs and other Turkic minorities languish in detention camps in China's northwestern Xinjiang region in prison-like conditions.

China insists they are "vocational training centres", but activists say inmates face torture and forced labour.

"Gulshan Abbas has been sentenced according to the law by Chinese judicial organs for taking part in organised terrorism, aiding terrorist activities and seriously disrupting social order," foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters.

He did not give further details of her alleged crimes.

"We urge US politicians to respect facts, stop fabricating lies to smear China, and stop using the Xinjiang issue to interfere in China's domestic affairs," he added.

Various Western countries and organisations including the US, EU and UN have criticised China's policies in Xinjiang, most recently highlighting alleged forced labour practices involving Uighur Muslims.

That has spotlighted alleged abuses inside the textile supply chain in particular, where cotton harvested in Xinjiang by forced or cheap labour is believed to make cheap garments for Western high streets.

A retired doctor who is fluent in Mandarin, Abbas was detained in September 2018, according to testimony from her sister, Rushan Abbas, provided to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee last year.

Rushan Abbas, who is based in the US, has been outspoken in campaigning for her sister's release.

"Today my family shared the devastating news we received on Christmas Day: that my sister, Dr Gulshan Abbas, was sentenced to 20 yrs in prison by the Chinese regime," tweeted Rushan Abbas on Wednesday.

"Horrific as her unjust suffering is, I am thankful for the support of so many human rights allies."

Beijing, China | AFP

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