Washington [US], March 12 (ANI): Uyghur entrepreneur and philanthropist Ekpar Asat disappeared upon returning to China almost five years ago, after participating in a prestigious US State Department programme, believed to be one of the two million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities detained by the Chinese government in internment camps in Xinjiang.
In an interview with CNN, his sister Rayhan talked about her concerns for her brother's well-being and the risks she is taking by campaigning for his release and her hopes that US President Biden's administration will more forcefully tackle China over what's happening in Xinjiang.
"I'm truly outraged as to what has happened to him. This is unspeakable injustice. No family should experience anything like this. But we are," she said.
Rayhan, a US-based lawyer, said her brother was extolled by the Chinese government as 'a bridge builder and a positive force'. In 2016, he participated in the US State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program. He said he would be back for her Harvard graduation in May of that year.
However, her family cancelled their trip before her graduation. When she tried to reach out to her brother, he was nowhere to be found, she said.
The US government estimates that millions of Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic and religious minorities have been detained in internment camps in the region in China's northwest, and both the Biden and Trump administrations have accused Beijing of carrying out genocide and crimes against humanity.
Rayhan further told CNN that she was told by US lawmakers that her brother was sentenced to 15 years in prison for inciting ethnic hatred and ethnic discrimination, but is yet to see any documentation to corroborate his alleged sentencing.
Rayhan said Ekpar was recently seen in a video -- and the images were said to be shocking, where he was described as 'absolutely unrecognizable'. However, Rayhan has not seen the images herself and CNN has not verified the video.
"He lost tremendous weight. He looks like a bone with a human face... It was just absolutely shocking," she was told.
She also mentioned that she recently learned that he was kept in concentration camps until 2019 and is now being kept in solitary confinement.
"We condemn his ongoing imprisonment and call on (People's Republic of China) authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally... We have raised his case directly with the PRC government, and will continue to raise his case at every available opportunity," said a US State Department spokesperson.
"Unfortunately, due to tight PRC controls on information, we have been unable to independently verify his current status and whereabouts, but we consistently press the PRC for this information whenever we raise his case," the spokesperson added.
Rayhan further said that she fears parents' safety and that she may also 'disappear in the shadows of these internment camps'.
Rayhan has also begun using the new social media platform Clubhouse to host conversations about what happened to her brother and to discuss the internment camps broadly. She is also urging the Biden administration to put the issue at the centre of its China policy, reported CNN.
"I would love to have an opportunity to make a case for President (Joe) Biden and Secretary (Antony) Blinken that any sort of future engagement with China has to have some sort of conditions, and one of which is to release my brother," she said.
China has been rebuked globally for cracking down on Uyghur Muslims by sending them to mass detention camps, interfering in their religious activities and sending members of the community to undergo some form of forcible re-education or indoctrination.
Beijing, on the other hand, has vehemently denied that it is engaged in human rights abuses against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang while reports from journalists, NGOs and former detainees have surfaced, highlighting the Chinese Communist Party's brutal crackdown on the ethnic community. (ANI)