China sentences Uyghur doctor Gulshan Abbas to 20 years in prison for ‘terrorism’

Dr. Gulshan Abbas, a 58 year old Uyghur Muslim doctor has been jailed on terrorism charges, Beijing confirmed Thursday. The confirmation comes after a day her family told US Congressional committee that she had been sentenced to 20 years.

Gulshan Abbas disappeared two years ago, but it was revealed later that she was detained by Chinese authorities while trying to leave to the US. Her relatives told a US congressional committee on Wednesday that Dr. Abbas had been sentenced to 20 years in prison because of activism on behalf of Uyghurs.

China denies the allegations and said that the doctor has not been imprisoned but put in a  “vocational training centre”. However, relatives of the doctor and activists say that inmates of these centres face torture and forced labour and that they are anything but vocational training centres.

Responding to the questions from journalists after the congressional committee hearing, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told that Gulshan Abbas has been sentenced according Chinese law for taking part in ‘organised terrorism, aiding terrorist activities and seriously disrupting social order’. He did not give further details of her alleged crimes.

“We urge US politicians to respect facts, stop fabricating lies to smear China, and stop using the Xinjiang issue to interfere in China’s domestic affairs,” he added.

#FreeGulshanAbbas has been trending on Twitter with Uyghur and human rights activists urging US and other countries to force China to release the doctor.

A retired doctor fluent in Mandarin, Abbas was detained in September 2018, according to testimony from her sister, Rushan Abbas, provided to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee last year. 

“Today my family shared the devastating news we received on Christmas Day: that my sister, Dr Gulshan Abbas, was sentenced to 20 yrs in prison by the Chinese regime,” tweeted Rushan Abbas on Wednesday who is also a Uyghur rights activist.

“Horrific as her unjust suffering is, I am thankful for the support of so many human rights allies”, she further appealed.

Various Western countries and organisations including the US, EU and UN have criticised China’s policies in Xinjiang, most recently highlighting alleged forced labour practices involving Uyghur Muslims.

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