Local officials in China’s Xinjiang province announced that a prominent Uyghur real estate businessman and philanthropist, Yaqub Haji, died in prison. Investigating the social media of Haji’s families and friends, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that his body was handed over to his family on September 6, 2021. There is no available information as to when and how Haji died.
One of Haji’s friends living abroad told RFA that the police reported the cause of death is “unmitigated fever.” However, when Haji’s body was returned to his family, his legs were already in a state of decomposition.
The police in Ghulja declined to release information about the incident. RFA reported that the police are not allowed to “comment on Haji’s death or give any details,” although one of the police officers confirmed that Haji died in prison.
The Chinese government has been actively targeting Uyghur people in business, academics, and cultural and religious figures to destroy their identity. With the world’s attention focused on Afghanistan’s plight, the Chinese government is unperturbed by sanctions against its genocidal acts against the Uyghurs.
Another Uyghur businessman was arrested in 2018, around the same time as Haji. Abdughapar Abdurusul was arrested around July or August 2018 for making a pilgrimage to Mecca without the Chinese government’s consent. He was later sentenced to death.
Dr. Yasir Qadhi, an American-Pakistani preacher, acknowledged Haji’s help towards the Uyghur community. Dr. Qadhi said that Haji “was active in helping various causes, and when approached to help build a mosque, he readily financed its construction.”
One Haji’s friends who left Ghulja, in an interview with RFA, said he was arrested in 2018 because he made donations to “the building of the mosque and for giving 3,000 yuan to a religious cleric to build a house.” Dr. Qadhi said that the Chinese government considered his donation “support for terrorism” and was tortured for confession. “His deformed body was handed over to his relatives for burial,” he added.
RAF confirmed that one of his siblings was warned that no funeral gathering should be made for Haji’s burial.