Uyghur Billionaire Jailed For 20 Years Over Charitable Donations

Iminjan Rahmitulla had built major shopping bazaars and opened markets in Central Asia.
2021-06-14
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Uyghur Billionaire Jailed For 20 Years Over Charitable Donations Uyghur Billionaire Iminjan Rahmitulla in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of Iminjan Rahmitulla's family

A Uyghur entrepreneur in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) was jailed for 20 years for “supporting terrorists” for donations he gave to the wives and children of Uyghur prisoners, sources inside and outside the region told RFA.

Iminjan Rahmitulla founder of a shopping mall and one of the founders of the famous Grand Bazaar in Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi) city, was one of four ethnic Uyghur billionaires tried and sentenced in Atush (Atushi) in April, the Norway-based “Uyghuryar” Foundation told RFA.

The other three billionaires — Rehmutulla Semet, Abdusopur Semet, Musajan Imam — were sentenced for engaging in separatist activities, with the two Semet brothers receiving 20-year jail terms, and Musjan jailed for 17 years.

Iminjan was reported detained in late 2018, and after a two-year investigation, he was tried and sentenced, said Uyghuryar founder Abduweli Ayup.

Iminjan’s sister, Nurgul Rahmitulla, and his daughter also were detained with him, according to Abduweli and an official who works in politics and law in Atush, the main city of the XUAR’s Kizilsu Kirghiz (Kezileisu Keerkezi) Autonomous Prefecture.

The official, who declined to be named, confirmed that Iminjan was one of four prominent entrepreneurs tried in April and said that he owned two buildings under the name of Bughra Commercial Market, which were in operation up to the time he was tried.

The official also said that Iminjan had been sentenced to 20 years in prison, but he was unable to provide any details about his sister and daughter.

Iminjan confessed to a number of “crimes” in exchange for his daughter’s release, Abduweli said.

“Initially, under duress from torture, Iminjan said that if they let his daughter go, he would agree to sign [a confession for crimes],” he told RFA. “However, there is information suggesting that even after he signed and admitted to all these “crimes,” his daughter was … sentenced to prison herself.”

Officials at the Atush Intermediate People’s Court and the Kizilsu Provincial Intermediate People’s Court said they were aware of Iminjan’s trial and sentence, but declined further comment.

Born in 1962, Iminjan Rahmitulla graduated from the Xinjiang Finance University and later started a career in the fruit business, according to Abudweli.

“After that, he worked for the government for a period, and then he began engaging in business,” he said.

Iminjan invested 50 million yuan (U.S. $7.8 million) to establish the Fujiang Fruit Company, Abudweli told RFA. He also founded other companies, including Bughra Agricultural Products and Bughra Real Estate Company.

Bughra Agricultural Products had a market by the same name in Atush. He also built the Grand Bazaar in Kashgar, similar to the bazaar in the XUAR’s capital Urumqi, and the Bughra shopping mall in Atush.

In all, Iminjan owned nine companies, which created job opportunities for residents of local Uyghur communities, Abudweli said. In addition to working in several different fields, he played a leading role in introducing agricultural and other products from the southern XUAR to markets in Central Asia.

“Bughra Agricultural Products was recognized as a leading company among companies in the Uyghur Autonomous Region,” Abudweli said.

“He made commodities out of the things used by Uyghur farmers and got them into external markets in Central Asia, and brought great profit to Uyghurs,” he said. “In addition to this, the bazaars he built in Kashgar and Atush created jobs for many young Uyghurs.”

Like other Uyghur business people in the XUAR, Iminjan was arrested because of his charity work, Abduweli Ayup said. Chinese authorities tried him on charges of “supporting terrorists” and “preparing for terrorism” because he had donated money to the wives and children of Uyghur prisoners, though Iminjan did so as a form of paying zakat, or a tithe, on his property.

“We heard from his friends and acquaintances about how he helped others, particularly about how grateful his neighbors and members of Uyghur society were for the help he had given to the sick, to people who couldn’t pay for their own medicine, and to orphans,” Abduweli said.

Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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