A Uighur woman who is reportedly under house arrest in Xinjiang says she was visited by Chinese police and threatened after her Australian husband appeared on the ABC’s Q&A program on Monday.
Sadam Abdusalam asked Wang Xining – the deputy head of mission at Australia’s Chinese embassy – on Monday why his wife Nadila Wumaier and the couple’s two-year-old son, Lutfy, who is an Australian citizen, had been kept under house arrest and were not allowed to leave China.
Wang said that “the girl [Wumaier] with the son … told the government in Xinjiang that she would not like to come to Australia. This is the information provided by the regional government”.
Abdusalam told the Guardian: “I spoke to my wife that night and said this is what he said. She said ‘Are you serious? I’m dying to go there. How can he say this?’”
In response to Wang’s answer, Wumaier sent her husband a photograph of herself holding up a sign, written in English, that said “I want to leave and be with my husband,” along with Tuesday’s date.
Abdusalam posted the photograph to his Twitter account, along with a caption saying: “Last night on Q&A the Chinese embassy official lied and said my wife and son did not want to be with me. here is the proof this not true. Here she is today with my son Lutfy I have never even met. Let them leave! Let me by with my family!”
Within hours of tweeting the photograph, Wumaier says Chinese police and state officials turned up at her house in Xinjiang.
“After a few hours my wife called me, ‘They are already here, the Chinese officials, Chinese police showed up at my house’,” said Abdusalam. “They asked ‘Did you send any photos to your husband’ and she said no, then they showed the photo [from Abdusalam’s tweet] and said ‘What’s this? Why did you send it?’
“To be honest, I’m a bit scared. They’re watching everything I’m doing [in Australia]. In this free country they’re trying to control my freedom of speech. They told my wife, ‘Your husband needs to keep quiet’, I’ve kept quiet for years and nothing happened. I’m not going to keep quiet anymore.”
Abdusalam and Wumaier married in 2016. They went on a honeymoon to the US and Turkey, where they discovered she was pregnant. Wumaier’s application for an Australian visa was rejected and Abdusalam returned to Australia, where he is a citizen, while Wumaier returned to China to be with her family during her pregnancy. She has been unable to leave China since, despite the fact the Australian government has now granted her a visa and their son is an Australian citizen. She claims to have been held for a time in a detention centre and told her son would be taken into a state-run orphanage.
Abdusalam said his wife has faced continued pressure from Chinese police and is visited by them every few months.
Abdusalam said he was not happy with Wang’s answer to his question on Q&A, saying “He’s not only lying to me, he’s lying to all of Australia”.
But he said he was glad to have been given the chance to ask the question, and was particularly pleased to see how the audience responded to Wang, with many audience members laughing when the diplomat sought to correct host Hamish MacDonald’s description of the detention camps used to imprison the population by calling them “training centres”.
“I was happy … the people doesn’t believe them, I’m not the only one trying to say the truth, that makes me really happy,” he said.