Commentary on Political Economy

Friday, 24 September 2021

 China’s xinjiang crackdown reaps millions of dollars in assets for the state

courts sell off property and company shares once belonging to jailed uyghur business owner

this four-story building, in background, adjacent to an iconic mosque in kashgar, china, was seized from a jailed uyghur businessman and listed for auction by chinese authoritie

photo: jonathan cheng/the wall street journa

by eva xiao and jonathan chen

sept. 24, 2021 10:46 am e




korla, china—chinese authorities have seized and sold at auction tens of millions of dollars in assets owned by jailed uyghur business owners amid a broad government campaign to assimilate ethnic minorities in the country’s northwest xinjiang regio

since 2019, xinjiang courts have put at least 150 assets—ranging from home appliances to real estate and company shares—belonging to at least 21 people and valued at a total $84.8 million up for auction on e-commerce site

the listings were compiled by the uyghur human rights project, an advocacy group partially funded by the u.s. government, and were corroborated by the wall street journal, which reviewed court documents and corporate records. the xinjiang government didn’t respond to a request for commen

the uyghur group said it recorded seizures that were clearly linked to court cases involving charges related to terrorism and extremism. it also included cases of people identified by chinese state media as extremists, or whose families reported they had been accused of such activitie

western scholars and rights groups say chinese authorities level these types of charges as a pretext to implement policies targeting minorities in xinjiang more broadly. china says it is fighting terrorism and separatism. uyghur activists say beijing is intent on destroying uyghurs’ culture and ethnic identit

a uyghur entrepreneur detained in 2017 had helped fund the construction of these two towers in korla, china. they are currently unoccupied and fenced o

photo: jonathan cheng/the wall street journa

in recent years, china’s government has clamped down on the predominantly muslim and turkic-speaking uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in xinjiang, razing mosques and other religious sites and confining hundreds of thousands of people in a network of internment camps

the auction entries also shed light on what uyghurs say is another aspect of china’s campaign: the dismantling of companies and personal wealth belonging to uyghur business leader

one of the properties put up for auction was a four-story building in the western city of kashgar, adjacent to the city’s most important landmark, the nearly 600-year-old id kah mosque. the building was owned by a wealthy uyghur exporter named abdujelil heli

once praised by the xinjiang government as an “excellent builder of socialism with chinese characteristics,” mr. helil was arrested in 2017 and charged with financing terrorist activities. the next year he was sentenced to 14 years in prison and stripped of $11 million in personal asset

in october 2020, a man named chen chuhong won the bidding for mr. helil’s building near the mosque, acquiring it for $8.3 millio

mr. helil appealed and his case was heard earlier this year, his family sai

the building was auctioned off on alibaba group holding ltd. ’s taobao e-commerce site. alibaba didn’t respond to requests for commen

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some auction entries identified by the uyghur human rights project described group arrests tied to allegations of “helping terrorist activities” without elaborating, such as one involving 16 people, including two septuagenarians and an 81-year-old

“this is probably just the tip of the iceberg,” said nicole morgret, project manager at the uyghur human rights projec

as in the u.s., chinese law enables authorities to confiscate and sell assets for certain civil disputes and criminal charge

before the crackdown, uyghur business owners often served as a bridge between the government and their communities, with some scholars arguing that they helped mitigate socioeconomic disparities between the han chinese majority and ethnic minorities, which have long fueled interethnic tension

now, uyghur activists argue, they have become target

a wall street journal analysis of corporate records of companies in hotan city—home to several prominent uyghur real-estate developers—indicates that orders by municipal authorities to freeze uyghur entrepreneurs’ assets increased sharply in 2018, about a year after xinjiang authorities began interning local muslim minorities en mass

in 2017, one uyghur business owner had company shares frozen following orders from a local court. the next year, the number jumped to 22, accounting for more than half of all individuals and firms who had shares frozen due to criminal or civil cases in hotan city since 201

ruzi hemdul, a uyghur businessman from korla, china, was detained in 2017 and later sentenced to 25 years in prison, according to his brother omerj

photo: omerjan hemdu

the auction records also shed light on the unraveling of uyghur business legacies like that of the hemdul family, who owned a number of properties in korla, a central xinjiang city, including twin towers that overlooked a river running through the city, according to omerjan hemdul, a 31-year-old uyghur businessman now living in turkey

mr. hemdul’s two brothers, ruzi and memet, oversaw the family’s businesses until both were detained in 2017. mr. hemdul said he hasn’t heard from either since. in 2019 and 2020, a local xinjiang court listed several of ruzi hemdul’s properties for auction. one was an apartment unit in urumqi. another was a restaurant in korla, which was listed at $1.6 million but didn’t win any bids. the brick-faced restaurant had been adorned with traditional uyghur art and chandeliers, according to photos included in its auction entr

also listed for auction was ruzi hemdul’s 40.5% stake in the real-estate company that built the two towers in korla, which was sold for $300,00

the jewher restaurant in korla, china, previously owned by uyghur entrepreneur ruzi hemdul, was auctioned on a chinese e-commerce site in 20

photo: jonathan cheng/the wall street journa

in september, a journal reporter visited ruzi hemdul’s long-closed restaurant in korla, with its name erased from the building’s facade. the two towers were unoccupied and fenced off by green barriers, though construction of the exterior appeared to have been completed

omerjan hemdul doesn’t know what allegations were leveled against his brothers. he said he believes the chinese government targets rich uyghurs by accusing them of sponsoring terrorism. donations to mosques in korla and a project to build a hospital in turkey could have also made his brothers a target, he said. “they catch wealthy people so that they can retake their wealth,” he sai

the korla city government didn’t respond to a request for comment.d..l19.0.y..lan.3.e.s.s.s.t..eew.lupt.d.n.s.l.s..lff.y.s.t.s.n.teetgls.said.

The Korla city government didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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