A five-year-old Uyghur boy who was left in the care of grandparents because his parents are incarcerated for religious and political reasons was found frozen to death in a ditch in Hotan (Hetian, in Chinese) prefecture in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), residents told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
RFA confirmed that both parents of Nesrulla Yusuptohti, who was found frozen to death in a ditch covered with ice and snow on Sunday in Sampul township Hotan’s Lop (Luopu) county, are incarcerated in the region.
The boy’s mother, 26-year-old Patem Rozi, was sentenced to 10 years in jail for preaching Islam in 2017 and jailed in Ghulja, a city about 2,000 kms (1,200 miles) away from Hotan, a village women’s affairs official in Sampul township told RFA.
The child’s father, Yusup Tohti, 28, was taken to a nearby internment camp in Lop County Economic Development Zone because his wife was criminally charged for religious issues, the official said.
“We heard the news of his death this Monday during the flag raising ceremony,” said a resident in Sampul township.
“Our village party secretary told us to take good care of our children. According to what he said, his parents are undergoing education and he was in the care of his grandparents, who because of poor health cannot go outside,” the source said.
The XUAR runs an estimated 1,300-1,400 internment camps, where authorities are believed to have held 1.8 million ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas since April 2017.
China, after initially denying such camps existed, now describes the facilities as “boarding schools” that provide vocational training for Uyghurs, discourage radicalization, and help protect the country from terrorism.
The local resident said that on Saturday, “of Nesrulla went to a creek with three or four kids from the neighborhood, and went missing.
“They could not find him for a day or so, so they asked the neighbors’ kids, and they pointed out the place where he fell into the water. The neighbors then helped the elderly grandparents to dig him out from the ice,” added the source.
“It seems his parents have no clue about this, and it doesn’t seem like they have returned form the training either. If they had, we would have visited them and paid our respects,” the source added.
The village women’s affairs official identified the boy’s paternal grandparents as Tohti Imin, 71, and his wife Kemer Yasin, 69, of Number 2 hamlet in Sampul township’s Karki village.
The boy’s mother, Patem Rozi, was sentenced two years ago for ten years. She is jailed in a jail in Ghulja, I don’t which one. But I have heard that she is in Karabughra jail in Kunes County,” the official told RFA.
“She was sentenced for preaching illegally,” the official added. Her husband “was taken because his wife was sentenced.”
RFA has previously reported about how Uyghur children whose parents are held in camps are regularly sent to orphanages that are seriously overcrowded, with sources calling the conditions “terrible” and describing children “locked up like farm animals in a shed.”
RFA has also received several reports of Uyghur children in the XUAR dying or suffering severe injuries while their parents are detained and they lack adequate care.
In December last year, Rahmutullah Shirbaqi, the two-year-old son of a Uyghur couple detained at a camp in Hotan’s Qaraqash (Moyu) county, drowned after falling through ice into an irrigation ditch while in the care of his elderly grandparents.
In August 2018, sources told RFA that a 10-year-old boy from Kashgar (Kashi) prefecture’s Makit (Maigaiti) county, whose parents were being held in a re-education camp, had drowned in the area’s Zerepshan River.
And in March last year, sources reported that eight-year-old Esma Ahmet, whose father was being held at a re-education camp, had suffered burns to nearly 60 percent of her body a month earlier when a stove overturned at her home in Hotan’s Guma (Pishan) county, and was in urgent need of medical treatment.