Beijing's crackdown in Xinjiang has separated thousands of children from their parents, new report claims. CNN found two of themMarch 18, 2021
Mamutjan said his family, who are ethnically Uyghur, are unable to leave China, while he would be at risk of being detained or imprisoned if he returned. He is now living in Adelaide, Australia.
With Mamutjan’s permission, CNN journalists visited his parents’ house in Kashgar unannounced to see if they could help locate his children – and find out what happened to his wife.
His daughter Muhlise answered the door in a bright pink shirt and black pants. When showed a picture of Mamutjan, she said: “This is my Dad.” She said she knew where her father was but seemed unwilling to talk about her mother’s location.
After checking the answer with her grandparents, Muhlise said her mother was at her other grandmother’s house but she “can’t see her very often.” The 10-year-old said she last saw her mother “a month or two ago.” She said her brother was not with her but she saw him regularly.
When Muhlise was asked if she wanted to be reunited with her father, she said, “We can’t go … Our passports were confiscated.”
After keeping her composure throughout the arrival of the CNN team, Muhlise began to break down when asked if she missed her father. “I don’t have my mom here, and I don’t have my dad here either … I want to be reunited with them,” she said. Hearing the question, her grandmother burst into tears.
In 2016, Ablikim Mamtinin and his wife Mihriban Kader said they were forced to flee Xinjiang after she became pregnant with their sixth child. Under China’s family planning policies, most families were only allowed to have one child until 2015, although rural ethnic minorities, including the Uyghurs, were permitted up to three in the region.
But their travel agent said they weren’t able to get visas for all five of their children – only the youngest. Zumeryem, Yehya, Muhammad and Shehide would have to stay behind.
It was a heartbreaking choice for Mihriban and Ablikim. In the end, after leaving the four children with their grandparents, they left, hoping to be reunited as soon as possible . . . But as the crackdown intensified in Xinjiang, their relatives in China stopped responding to their calls and emails.
In June 2020 . . . the four children were put into a state-sponsored orphanage.
In the county seat of Payzawat, about an hour’s drive from Kashgar, CNN attempted to locate the four siblings with their parents’ permission, but local officials did not allow the team to visit the children. CNN was able to connect with Yehya, the second-oldest child, over a WeChat video call, as what he called a “teacher” off camera prompted the young man with what to say to journalists.
When asked if he wanted to be reunited with his parents, he said, “I do.”
At one point, a voice on the other end of the phone told Yehya, “Tell them that you see your sister every day.” When asked if he wanted to pass on any messages to his parents, the voice told him to say that he had “nothing” to say to his parents.
Since their failed escape attempt, when the children occasionally gain access to a phone in the orphanage, they can speak to their parents. Recently, the children sent a photograph of the four of them standing in front of barbed wire outside the facility. Another image they sent showed the siblings with a sign in Chinese, saying, “Dad, Mom, we miss you.”