On Friday, April 9, at a press conference in the Chinese capital of Beijing, a propaganda video was shown to attendees which depicted a middle-aged Uyghur man, head shaved and wearing a blue prison uniform, admitting to his alleged faults and pleading for mercy from the Chinese government. The man, an award-winning Uyghur television producer and journalist named Erkin Tursun, is currently in the midst of serving a 20-year prison sentence for “inciting ethnic hatred, ethnic discrimination and covering up crimes.” Having used his media platform to promote Uyghur culture and human rights prior to his detention, Tursun became a target of the Chinese government after he produced a program titled “The World is Beautiful and Filled with Love and Care” which focused on the financial difficulties faced by three Uyghur students.
In the recent propaganda video, Tursun claims that “I will try my best to change myself and receive the leniency of the party and the government”, while appealing to his son, Arfat Erkin (Alfred Tursun) to stop his advocacy on Uyghur human rights and to stop fighting for his release. Arfat, now in his early 20s, lives and studies in the United States, where he learned in 2019 that many of his relatives had been rounded up and imprisoned after he used social media to call for his father’s release from prison. Arfat explained that, while he had no intention to live in the United States permanently and ultimately hopes to return to his motherland, East Turkistan (Xinjiang), he knows it is unsafe for him as he will likely be imprisoned for his work in the US.
In fact, Arfat appeared as a speaker at Jubilee Campaign’s United Nations Human Rights Council 46th session parallel event “Grant Every Child Every Right in China“ where he discussed how the Chinese government routinely violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by imprisoning Uyghur parents and separating them from their young children; and by “uprooting Uyghur children by the thousands from their families and communities with the intention to strip them of their ethnic and religious identity” by placing them in state-run orphanages and boarding schools. Arfat lamented that Uyghur children are left unattended and devastated as their “fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, continue to be taken”. He calls these kids the “stolen generation” as they have been “pulled from stable homes” and separated from their parents at such a crucial point in their childhood and adolescence.
Now, Arfat has publicly reacted to the propaganda video of his father, stating that while he is relieved that the video confirms that his father is still alive, he can’t ignore the sadness he feels in seeing his father looking completely unrecognizable, “forced to speak against his son and do forced confession.” He also expresses that he is upset that the Chinese government has forced his father to speak against his own son’s activism: