Chinese dissident living in London asks UK authorities for help tracing family

Since his father died in 2017 a former Chinese citizen has not heard from his family – and fears they could have been detained in a camp for taking his calls.

Aziz Isa Elkun, 48, last spoke to his 76-year-old mother Hepizem Nizamidin over the phone from his north London flat in 2017.

He had just heard his 78-year-old father had passed away but the call quickly ended when his mother said ‘It’s a bit difficult to talk at the moment’.

Since then all further calls have gone unanswered, according to the Telegraph.

Mr Isa Elkun and his family are Uighurs, an ethnic Muslim minority targeted by authorities in the western province of Xinjiang.

Travelling, having family who live abroad or even using western apps can see people detained in camps known as ‘vocational skills training centres’ and ‘boarding schools’.

‘Two years, I have no information about my mother, my relatives,’ he told The Telegraph. ‘Where are they?’

As a student in the 1980s Mr Isa Elkun had joined protests in Xinjiang over the communist government’s treatment of ethnic minorities.

Later he protested in Tiananmen Square before being marked as a dissident and fleeing to the UK in 2001.

Now a British citizen Mr Isa Elkun says the Government should be doing more to protect the human rights of Uighurs in China.

‘The UK government legally also has responsibility to prioritise their citizens’ rights to be able to speak to their family,’ he added.

His wife Rachel Harris, an expert in Uighur culture at London’s School of Oriental and African studies, says the overall response from the Government has been lacking.

She says they should put pressure on Beijing to stop the detentions.

But the UK benefits from a £40billion trade deal with China and despite UK diplomats, including Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, confirming reports of the camps are ‘broadly accurate’, Mr Isa Elkun says not much has been done.

Mr Hunt and Mark Field, the Asia minister, have raised the issue with China saying: ‘We have serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang,’ according to a spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. 

Due to Britain’s close ties with the region – in the 1890s Britain was one of a just a few foreign powers with a consulate in Kashgar, southern Xinjiang – experts and rights groups say more could be done. 

Charles Parton, a former British diplomat in China, said: ‘There is a wider debate between prosperity – trading and investment with China – but on the other hand, the need to maintain our own security interests and values.’ 

Xinjiang has a long history of clashes between 11 million Uighurs, Sunni Muslims of Turkic descent and the Han Chinese majority.  

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