HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong on Saturday criticized rights group Amnesty International’s accusation that a Uyghur student disappeared after being questioned at the airport, and said government records showed he had not entered or had been refused entry into the city.
Amnesty International said Friday that Abuduwaili Abudureheman, born in Xinjiang, western China, traveled to Hong Kong from South Korea to visit a friend on May 10, but has since disappeared after texting the friend about an interrogation after he arrived. He has spent the past seven years studying in Seoul, completing a doctorate. in sports and recreation in 2022, according to the group.
In a statement, the government strongly condemned Amnesty’s “unfounded and baseless remarks” as an attempt to smear it.
“In fact, HKSAR government records show that the person either did not enter or was denied entry by Hong Kong,” the statement read, referring to the official name of the Hong Special Administrative Region. Kong. “The organization deliberately attacked the HKSAR government and slandered the human rights situation in Hong Kong without verifying the facts.”
The government demanded an apology from the group.
“Although Abuduwaili remains missing, we will remain concerned for his safety. His friend who reached out to Amnesty International has still not been able to get in touch with him after he sent a message saying he was being questioned by Chinese police upon his scheduled arrival in Hong Kong,” Amnesty replied to The Associated Press in response seeking comment.
The United Nations and human rights groups accuse China of holding a million or more Uyghurs and members of other predominantly Muslim groups in camps where many have said they were tortured, sexually assaulted and forced to abandon their language and their religion.
China denies the charges, which are based on interviews with survivors, photos and satellite images of the Xinjiang region where many Uyghurs live.
Uighur activists overseas have criticized Hong Kong’s denial of its role in the student’s whereabouts.
“If he had flown to Hong Kong from South Korea, there would have been records of him boarding the plane,” said Nyrola Elima, an independent Uyghur researcher based in Sweden.
“Regardless of the efforts of the Hong Kong government to deny or cover up the atrocities committed by the Beijing and Xinjiang governments against the Uyghurs, it remains a fact that a Uyghur Ph.D. student disappeared at Hong Kong airport,” she said.
Tahir Imin, a Uyghur scholar based in Washington, DC and founder of the Uyghur Times, said the Hong Kong authorities’ statement was a “blatant lie”.
“If it is true that he did not enter Hong Kong, he would have let his closest friends know where he was for the past two weeks,” he said.
“The Hong Kong authorities’ statement is a blatant lie and an attempt to avoid international criticism, to cover up its possible complicity in the Chinese Communist Party’s hunt for Uyghurs around the world,” he said.
Associated Press writer Kanis Leung contributed to this report.