After bloody race riots rocked China’s far west a decade ago, the ruling Communist Party turned to a rare figure in their ranks to restore order: a Han Chinese official fluent in Uighur, the language of the local Turkic Muslim minority.
Now, newly revealed, confidential documents show that the official, Zhu Hailun, played a key role in planning and executing a campaign that has swept up a million or more Uighurs into detention camps.
Published in 2017, the documents were signed by Zhu, as then-head of the powerful Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the Communist Party in the Xinjiang region. A Uighur linguist recognized Zhu’s signature scrawled atop some of the documents from his time working as a translator in Kashgar, when Zhu was the city’s top official.
“When I saw them, I knew they were important,” said the linguist, Abduweli Ayup, who now lives in exile. “He’s a guy who wants to control power in his hands. Everything.”
Zhu, 61, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Long before the crackdown and despite his intimate familiarity with local culture, Zhu was more hated than loved among the Uighurs he ruled.
He was born in 1958 in rural Jiangsu on China’s coast. In his teens, during China’s tumultuous Cultural Revolution, Zhu was sent to Kargilik county, deep in the Uighur heartland in Xinjiang. He never left.
Zhu joined the party in 1980 and moved up Xinjiang’s bureaucracy, helming hotspot cities. By the ’90s, he was so fluent in Uighur that he corrected his own translators during meetings.
“If you didn’t see him, you’d never imagine he’s Han Chinese. When he spoke Uighur, he really spoke just like a Uighur, since he grew up with them,” said a Uighur businessman living in exile in Turkey, who declined to be named out of fear of retribution.
The businessman first heard of Zhu from a Uighur friend who dealt with the official while doing business. His friend was impressed, describing Zhu as “very capable” — a Han Chinese bureaucrat the Uighurs could work with. But after years of observing Zhu oversee crackdowns and arrests, the businessman soon came to a different conclusion.
“He’s a crafty fox. The really cunning sort, the kind that plays with your brain,” he said. “He was a key character for the Communist Party’s policies to control Southern Xinjiang.”
Ayup, the linguist, met Zhu in 1998, when he came to inspect his township. He was notorious for ordering 3 a.m. raids of Uighur homes, and farmers would sing a popular folk song called ‘Zhu Hailun is coming’ to poke fun at his hard and unyielding nature.
“He gave orders like farmers were soldiers. All of us were his soldiers,” Ayup said. “Han Chinese controlled our homeland. We knew we needed to stay in our place.”
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Source: Religion News Service