The UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet is scheduled to visit the northwestern region of Xinjiang. The trip starts on Monday, May 23. Zhang Qingzhen, sister of Xinjiang dissident Zhang Haitao, wrote Bachelet a letter on May 22. She asked Bachelet to help her find Zhang Haitao during her trip to China.
It’s worth mentioning that Beijing has long been accused of committing atrocities against the Uighurs, the Muslim minority group in Xinjiang.
According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights website, Bachelet’s trip to China begins from May 23 to 28. Bachelet will visit Guangzhou, Kashgar, and Urumqi.
According to Chinese media news outlet Da Ji Yuan, Zhang Qingzhen’s letter to Bachelet reads that Zhang Haitao is now detained at Xinjiang’s Shaya Prison. April 26, 2018, was the last time she met her brother. After this visit, his sister reported that Zhang was detained in solitary confinement, with no access to fresh air or sunlight. She hasn’t heard any news from him since then.
Zhang Qingzhen attempted to write to Shaya Prison, Xinjiang Prison, and various departments of the Chinese government several times, but to no avail. She is very worried about Zhang Haitao’s safety, and she hopes that Bachelet can help her find her brother during her visit to China.
Zhang Qingzhen was first unable to send the email through China’s 163 mailboxes. Lin Shengliang, a Shenzhen dissident living in exile in the Netherlands, then helped her in sending the email.
Lin Shengliang told a Da Ji Yuan reporter that he complained twice last year about Xinjiang’s Shaya Prison. Zhang Qingzhen was contacted after that, and they said she could arrange a meeting. However, they later reversed their decision and refused to allow any discussion.
Zhang Haitao was born in Henan Province in 1971, and he is a volunteer for the rights movement. According to Radio Free Asia, on January 15, 2016, Zhang Haitao was sentenced to 19 years in prison by Xinjiang police for “incitement to subvert state power” and spying charges. The accusations against Zhang came after he posted comments online critical of government policies. Zhang has also been a vocal critic of the Chinese Communist Party’s treatment of the Muslim Uighur ethnic group.
His wife Li Aijie and their 4-year-old son fled to the United States in December 2017.
Li Aijie said Zhang Haitao had written four letters to his family in Henan since his arrest. In each letter, Zhang wrote everything was fine and he hadn’t encountered any troubles in life. All these signs worry Zhang’s family.