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China May Have Been Involved in the Death of Uyghur Researcher Returning From Japan

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Social media has been actively discussing the suspicious death in December 2020 of an Uyghur plant biology researcher at a detention facility in Xinjiang.

Mihriay Erkin, 29, had been working at Japan’s Nara Technology and Science Institute when she returned to China in June 2019. She was detained and sent to the Yanbulaq detention center in Kashgar in February 2020.

Her relatives claim Chinese authorities were responsible for her death, which they say they learned about only recently. China denies all allegations relating to the persecution of Uyghurs and says the internment camps are "vocational institutes" that deradicalize extremists.

Abduweli Ayup, Erkin’s uncle and a Norway-based Uyghur rights activist, launched a social media campaign last week with Uyghur activists to highlight Erkin and demand that China disclose the circumstances surrounding her death.

Mihriay Erkin was concerned about the safety of her father, Erkin Ayup, a former Chinese government official, and her aunt, Sajidigul Ayup, a former high school teacher, who had been detained by Chinese authorities for almost two years in Xinjiang when Mihriay decided to leave Japan in 2019.

Erkin had been in Japan since 2014 when we went to Tokyo University to pursue a master’s degree in plant biology.