A Chinese imam and three of his sons were detained by China’s government because of their religion and family background, despite Beijing’s claims it has only targeted extremists in its detention of the Uighur ethnic minority, according to data reviewed by The Associated Press.
The database obtained by the AP indicates the government targeted Uighurs not just for extremism, but also for religious observances such praying, attending services at a mosque or growing a long beard, as well as that people with detained family members are far more likely to be detained themselves.
Memtimin Emer, a Uighur imam sentenced to up to 12 years in prison in 2017 and 2018, is listed under four charges in the database, including illegal religious teachings, “stirring up terrorism,” working as a “wild,” unauthorized cleric and subscribing to the Saudi Wahhabi sect, according to the AP.
However, Abdullah Muhammad, a former student of Emer’s, told the AP the charges were false, saying Emer was no longer preaching at the time of his arrest and did not follow Wahhabism.
“He used to always preach against violence,” Muhammad said. “Anyone who knew him can testify that he wasn’t a religious extremist.”
All of Emer’s three sons living in China were also detained in 2017. While none had been convicted of a crime, the database indicated they were detained for activities including having too many children, being “untrustworthy” and taking the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.
It also explicitly counts their ties to their father and his religious education against them, noting in the case of his eldest son, Ablikim Memtimin, that “his father taught him how to pray.”
However, the database also indicates nonreligious detainees who were detained for activities like having traveled to one of 26 “key” countries.