A woman walks past anti-terror propaganda posters pasted along a street of Urumqi, far-west China's Xinjiang region in this file image. Sources have stated that Uyghur students attending education institutions overseas have been ordered by the Chinese state to return to their home towns. (Photo by Goh Chai Hin/AFP)
Uyghur students enrolled in schools outside China are being ordered by Chinese authorities to return to their home towns by May 20, with family members in some cases held hostage to force their return, sources in Xinjiang and in Egypt say.
Launched at the end of January by authorities across the Xinjiang region, the campaign has frightened targeted students, some of whom have disappeared or been jailed after coming back, a Uyghur studying at Egypt's Al-Azhar University told Radio Free Asia.
"It seems that everyone who went home from Egypt has simply vanished," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We haven't been able to contact any of them."
"A friend of mine has already returned because his parents, brother, and sister were detained," the source said.
Many of those ordered home have been jailed after arriving in Xinjiang, another Uyghur studying in Egypt said. Some Uyghur students are now vowing to stay in Egypt until their school terms end, while others attempting to refuse their orders to return by fleeing into Turkey are being stopped at the Turkish border and denied entry, other sources said.
Police officers and officials of the ruling Chinese Communist Party in Kashgar prefecture's Peyziwat county told Radio Free Asia the campaign is an effort to investigate the political views of students ordered home.
"From what I understand, the goal of this policy is to identify their political and ideological stance, and then educate them about our country's laws and current developments," a police officer in a village of Peyziwat's Barin township said.
"We have a directive from the top," he added.
Uyghurs ordered home to Barin include students now studying in Turkey, France, Australia, and the United States, party officials in three of Barin's villages said.
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