Uyghur college student receives 3-year sentence for ‘advocating extremism’

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Uyghur college student receives 3-year sentence for ‘advocating extremism’

A Uyghur college student arrested by authorities in Xinjiang for posting a video on social media about the “white paper” protests has been sentenced to three years in prison, local authorities and a person familiar with the situation said.

Kamile Wayit, a 19-year-old preschool education major at the Shangqiu Institute of Technology in China’s Henan province, was detained in December 2022 for sharing a video on a social media app about the “white paper” protests that swept across China a month earlier during which people held up blank sheets of paper to complain about COVID-19 restrictions and the lack of free speech.

Wayit was one of dozens of young people around China detained in relation to the protests, which were sparked by a fatal lockdown fire in an apartment building in Xinjiang’s regional capital Urumqi that killed about 40 Uyghurs.

Her arrest has attracted international attention with the U.S. government, rights activists, scholars, professors and students demanding that Chinese authorities provide information on her case and release her. 

In June, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson told The Economist magazine that authorities sentenced Wayit on March 25, but did not state the length of her sentence. Her crime was “advocating extremism.”

She spent six months in the State Security Detention Center in Atush and is now serving the remainder of her sentence at Mush Women’s Prison in Kashgar Prefecture, the person with knowledge of the situation said, asking not to be named for security reasons. 

Atush is the capital of Kizilsu Kyrgyz Autonomous Prefecture in Xinjiang, where Wayit’s family lives and where authorities arrested her while she was home during winter break.

A staff member at a police station in Atush confirmed that Wayit is serving a three-year sentence and is in Mush Women’s Prison.

Embraced her

The relative youth and innocent appearance of the new prisoner saddened not only the fellow inmates but also some of the Uyghur prison staff who were on duty that day, said the source, who declined to be named out of fear of retribution.

When the Uyghur inmates learned that she was Kamile Wayit, they embraced her, thinking of their own children whom they hadn’t seen in five or six years, the source said.

When RFA contacted relevant authorities in Atush, an employee suggested the reporter contact local police who handled her case.

Other officials provided inconsistent responses, at times suggesting to consult higher authorities, while on other occasions referring to the case as a “state secret” and refraining from disclosing details about Wayit’s sentence. 

-RFA REPORT, July 11, 2023