A filmmaker and actor from Xinjiang committed two capital sins: he was successful, and maintained his Uyghur identity. He has been sentenced to 15 years in jail.
by Marco Respinti
“My name is Seyyare Erkin Hesen. Allow me to elaborate on my brother’s experience again and testify again for my innocent brother, Hursen Hesen, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison in China. Let those who don’t know better understand the evil of the Chinese Communist Party.”
This is the beginning of a plea by Ms. Seyyare Erkin Hesen, a Uyghur mother of four who fled to the United States, published in Mandarin Chinese on the Chinese-language blog hosted on the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) web site. UHRP is one of the major world organizations dedicated to researching and exposing abuses committed by the CCP in Xinjiang, that its inhabitants call East Turkestan. The Chairman of UHRP’s Board, Mr. Nury A. Turkel, was appointed as the first Uyghur member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in May 2020.
Uyghurs do not often write in Chinese. Actually, many Uyghurs simply cannot master the language, and in the mischievous eyes of the CCP this factual gap becomes a “great crime” of “separatism,” a pretext for repression and persecution.
A blog post in Chinese by a Uyghur advocating for human rights is exceptional, and newsworthy. It is also a way to tell the truth to those who live in China—if they can devise a way to access one of the many Web sites blocked by the CCP’s “Great Chinese Firewall.”
Seyyare Erkin Hesen writes that, “after finishing high school in Urumqi No. 5 Middle School,” Hursen Hesen “was admitted to the Chinese Department of Xinjiang Normal University, with excellent results. After four years of college career, he was recruited by Urumqi TV Station as a full-time voice actor. With his outstanding literary works and his cheerful personality, my brother has achieved exceptional results in his own industry and in the field of Uyghur literature.”
The young man then established his own independent production company, shooting films and videos that were locally acclaimed. “In October 2018,” the story goes on, “he was invited by the China Federation of Literature and Art and the Chinese Filmmakers Association to train a new generation of film directors at the national level. He participated in a two-month training program at the Changchun Film Studio in Changchun, Jilin Province.”
But, suddenly, only less than two months later, “in December 2018, he was taken innocently by Xinjiang police and sent to one of the transformation through education camps.” Hursen Hesen’s health, otherwise strong, “suffered a serious blow” while in detention. He “gradually weakened” and “suffered from epilepsy.” The police sent him to the emergency department of the First People’s Hospital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, but rapidly brought him back for further “re-education”. The young man stayed in detention in one of the horrific CCP-run camps “for nearly two years,” even if he had never breached any Chinese law. “On September 4, 2020, a Xinjiang court sentenced him to 15 years in prison for ‘separatism.’”
When Seyyare Erkin Hesen found the courage to phone their mother, nearly 80 years old, a widow for 10 years, she replied, speaking in Chinese: “We want to thank the Party and the country, and you don’t have to worry about the rest!” Clearly, the old lady’s phone was under surveillance. As Seyyare Erkin Hesen found later, the reality was much different. Worried for her son’s fate, the old lady was unable to sleep, and had been hospitalized several times.
Hursen Hesen has a family. The CCP sent his wife to a remote village in the countryside, while their two sons (one almost 24 years old, the other a teenager) remain at home. “Looking at my own four children growing up in the United States with peace of mind, I cried!” his sister writes on the UHRP blog. “The crimes against humanity committed by the Chinese Communist Party have spread all over the world. I believe that anyone who reads my article can hardly imagine the pain of losing a child. I am here again to strongly oppose the Chinese Communist Party. The perpetrators who oppressed us, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, Xinjiang Courts, Xinjiang Re-education Camps, Xinjiang Public Security Bureau, etc. have defamed, arrested and sentenced my brother Hursen Hesen. I strongly demand that my innocent brother be released immediately, and return to our beautiful family!”.