The call for the release of Gulshan Abbas, who was convicted of terrorism-related charges, came as China urged Washington to end the “lies, defamation”.
The United States on Wednesday called for the release of a Uyghur Muslim doctor whose relatives say he was sentenced to 20 years in prison in China because of family members’ human rights activism in the United States.
Gulshan Abbas’s daughter said at a briefing with the bipartisan Congressional and Executive Committee on China (CCCB) that the family recently learned that her mother was sentenced in March last year on charges terrorism after disappearing in September 2018.
On Thursday in Beijing, a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry said Abbas had been convicted of joining a “terrorist” organization, aiding in terrorist activities and “gathering a crowd to disrupt social order.”
“We are urging some US politicians to respect the facts and to stop fabricating lies and sullying China,” spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a press conference.
The daughter, Ziba Murat, called the accusations “absurd”. Gulshan’s sister Rushan Abbas said they stemmed from the activism of her and her brother Rishat Abbas, both based in the United States.
“We are committed to working to defend the rights of our people and advocate for justice, and now our sister is being denied justice as a punishment,” said Rushan.
‘No respect for human rights’
In a tweet, US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Robert Destro said Gulshan Abbas should be released.
“His enforced disappearance, detention, and harsh CCP sentencing [Chinese Communist Party] is proof that a family suffers the consequences of denouncing a government that has no respect for human rights, ”he said.
Ziba Murat said she could not reveal the source of the information about the conviction to protect their identity. “We only learned that she was sentenced to 20 years in prison and we are trying to get more information.”
“My mother is a healthcare professional, a non-partisan and kind person who has spent her life helping people,” she said, adding that her mother was in fragile health and suffered from multiple ailments, including hypertension.
CECC chairman Democratic Representative James McGovern called the punishment of an innocent family member “morally wrong” in what he said was an attempt to silence free speech.
He said it was simply part of a “massive persecution” of Uyghurs in China that involved the detention of as many as 1.8 million people in internment camps, forced labor and other abuses.
China has been criticized at the United Nations Human Rights Council by countries like Australia and the United States for the arbitrary detention and restrictions on the freedom of movement of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
According to witnesses and human rights activists, at least one million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities are being held in detention camps.
China has dismissed the criticism and says the camps are vocational schools where Uyghurs learn new skills. He says everyone who participated has “graduated” and returned home, but access to the camps is restricted and it is not possible to independently verify whether all have closed.