A prominent Uyghur businessman in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) who went missing in 2018 has been confirmed to be in jail along with two of his brothers and at least 20 of his employees on charges of “extremism”, official sources have confirmed.
Ekber Imin, the 51-year-old head of the Guzel Makan (Beautiful Land) Real Estate firm, as well as several other companies, in the seat of XUAR’s Hotan prefecture went missing in mid-2018, a Uyghur source living in exile in Turkey told RFA’s Uyghur Service, speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal.
While investigating the whereabouts of Imin, RFA learned from publicly available records that his company, Guzel Makan, which also had dealings with “foreign entities,” was established in 2007 and had total combined assets of 13.3 million yuan (US$1.9 million).
An employee with the city’s Tax Bureau told RFA that she was “unable to answer questions like this” when asked whether Guzel Makan was still operating, due to an order issued by the Public Security Bureau, and referred further inquiries to her superiors.
However, a source, who used to work with a Hotan prefectural legal and political bureau, told RFA in an interview that Imin owned some 30 16-story apartment buildings in Hotan city which together are known as the Baht (Happiness) Apartment Complex, and cited a colleague as saying that he had been imprisoned for reasons that were not immediately clear.
“It was about two years ago that they said he’d been taken,” said the source, who also declined to provide his name, adding that, “Where he is, where he’s gone, what’s happened to him—I know nothing.”
“We heard 25 years,” the former legal worker said, referring to the length of Imin’s sentence.
When asked whether the nature of Imin’s business had led to his imprisonment, the former legal worker said he was unsure, but that he heard that the company “had foreign ties.”
RFA also spoke with a police officer in Hotan city who said he had heard from members of his social circle that Imin was detained, but was unsure when.
“They detained him when he was going through a [border]checkpoint,” he said, without specifying which one.
The XUAR shares borders with Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and the region of Jammu and Kashmir, which is the subject of a territorial dispute between India, Pakistan, and China.
The police officer said he believed Imin had been sentenced “for life,” but admitted that he did not know for sure.
However, a police officer at Hotan’sIlchi Market told RFA that not only Imin, but his brothers—MemetturdiImin, 56, and MemetjanImin, 48—were jailed along with at least 20 of Imin’s employees.
The police officer said that one of the crimes Imin was convicted for was “propagating extremist ideology by incorporating ethnic and religious elements into building designs.”
“Ekber and his brothers were sentenced for five different reasons. One was providing so-called ‘cover for a criminal.’ Memetturdi Imin provided housing to a [camp]detainee who had been released. He was arrested for that reason.”
A businessman from Hotan city who is familiar with the Imins told RFA he knew that Imin’s two brothers had each been sentenced to 20 years in prison, “but I don’t know about the names and number of their partners who were jailed.”
Last month, sources told RFA that one of the wealthiest Uyghurs in Hotan prefecture had been confirmed jailed for life after his whereabouts were unknown for more than three years, and that dozens of his relatives and employees had also been sentenced to prison.
Eli Abdulla, the CEO of Xinjiang Yu Cheng (Jade City) Real Estate Development Ltd.—a company based in the XUAR capital Urumqi that deals in real estate, development, and rentals, as well as the sale of construction materials, chemicals, electronics, and mechanical equipment—went missing in mid-2016, and was believed to have been arrested by authorities and sentenced a year later. (Source: RFA)