WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Friday condemned a reported life sentence handed down in China to a high-profile Uyghur academic Rahile Dawut.
This week, a U.S.-based rights group said Dawut, 57, had lost her appeal against her original conviction from December 2018 on charges of “endangering state security.”
Rights advocates have accused China of a mass internment campaign targeting Uyghurs, along with abuses such as forced sterilization and cultural repression, termed “genocide” by some government bodies, including the U.S. State Department.
China denies such accusations.
“We condemn the reported life sentence handed down by the Government of the People’s Republic of China following secret court proceedings of Professor Rahile Dawut,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.
Before her detention, Dawut had been a professor at Xinjiang University College of Humanities, as well as a leading cultural anthropologist and ethnographer of Uyghur folklore.
She had been detained since December 2017 in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where Beijing has been accused of rights abuses against the mainly Muslim Uyghur ethnic minority, which it denies.
Dawut is just one in a list of more than 300 Uyghur intellectuals who have been detained, arrested or imprisoned by Chinese authorities since 2016, the U.S.-based Dui Hua Foundation, which reported the sentencing, said.
She worked with many prominent Western institutions, such as the universities of Harvard and Cambridge, which have called for her release.
Some Xinjiang experts said the mass internment of Uyghurs peaked in 2018, but that abuses have continued with forced labor becoming more prominent.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; editing by Grant McCool)