A Uyghur gets death sentence, as China bans once OK’d booksFebruary 01, 2022
As the Chinese government tightened its grip over its ethnic Uyghur population, it sentenced one man to death and three others to life in prison last year for textbooks drawn in part from historical resistance movements that had once been sanctioned by the ruling Communist Party.
An AP review of images and stories presented as problematic in a state media documentary, and interviews with people involved in editing the textbooks, found they were rooted in previously accepted narratives — two drawings are based on a 1940s movement praised by Mao Zedong, who founded the communist state in 1949. Now, as the party’s imperatives have changed, it has partially reinterpreted them with devastating consequences for individuals, while also depriving students of ready access to a part of their heritage.
Sattar Sawut, a Uyghur official who headed the Xinjiang Education Department, was sentenced to death, a court announced last April, saying he led a separatist group to create textbooks filled with ethnic hatred, violence and religious extremism that caused people to carry out violent acts in ethnic clashes in 2009. He may not be executed, as such death sentences are often commuted to life in prison after two years with good behavior.
The textbooks themselves were published only after high-level approval, said Kündüz, a former editor at the Xinjiang University newspaper who uses only one name.
When the textbooks were reviewed in 2001, the Uyghur stories hardly got any attention, said Abduweli Ayup, a Uyghur linguist who as a then-graduate student translated some of the stories into Chinese for the review.