HONG KONG – Hong Kong on Saturday criticized rights group Amnesty International’s accusation that a Uyghur student disappeared after being interrogated at the airport, and said that government records showed that he had not entered or been refused entry to the city.
Amnesty International said Friday that Abuduwaili Abudureheman, who was born in Xinjiang in western China, had traveled to Hong Kong from South Korea to visit a friend on May 10 but has since gone missing after he texted the friend about being interrogated after his arrival. He spent the last seven years studying in Seoul, completing a Ph.D. in sports and leisure in 2022, according to the group.
In a statement, the government strongly condemned Amnesty’s “groundless and unfounded remarks" as an attempt to smear it.
“In fact, the records of the HKSAR Government show that the person has not entered or been refused entry by Hong Kong,” the statement read, referring to the official name of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. “The organization deliberately attacked the HKSAR Government and slandered the human rights situation in Hong Kong without checking the fact.”
The government requested an apology from the group.
“While Abuduwaili remains missing, we will remain concerned for his safety. His friend who reached out to Amnesty International has still not been able to make contact with him after he sent a message saying he was being questioned by Chinese police at the time of his expected arrival in Hong Kong,” Amnesty replied to The Associated Press in response for seeking comment.
The United Nations and human rights groups accuse China of detaining 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 religion.
China denies the accusations, which are based on interviews with survivors, photos and satellite images of the Xinjiang region where many Uyghurs live.
Uyghur activists abroad 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 be records of him boarding the plane,” said Nyrola Elima, an independent Uyghur researcher based in Sweden.
“Regardless of the Hong Kong government’s efforts to deny or conceal the atrocities committed by the Beijing and Xinjiang governments against Uyghurs, it remains a fact that a Uyghur Ph.D. student vanished at the Hong Kong airport,” she said.
Tahir Imin, a Washington, D.C.-based Uyghur academic and founder of the Uyghur Times, said that the statement from Hong Kong authorities was a “blatant lie.”
“If it is true that he did not enter Hong Kong, he would have let his closest friends know his whereabouts for the last two weeks,” he said.
“The statement from Hong Kong authorities is a blatant lie and attempt to avoid international criticism, to cover its possible complicity in the Chinese Communist Party’s hunting down Uyghurs globally,” he said.
Associated Press writer Kanis Leung contributed to this report.