BEIJING – China has sentenced a former education official and a former legal official in the northwestern region of Xinjiang to death with a two-year reprieve on charges including separatism and bribe taking.
Sattar Sawut and Shirzat Bawudun are the latest of many Xinjiang bureaucrats, almost all members of the Turkic Uyghur ethnicity native to the region, to be sentenced on national security charges in what China calls a campaign against “two-faced officials” who are seeking to undermine Chinese rule from within the system.
Such sentences are usually commuted to life in prison after two years with good behavior. Both men pleaded guilty and neither would file an appeal, said Wang Langtao, vice president of Xinjiang’s regional higher people’s court. National security cases are heard behind behind closed doors and it wasn’t exactly clear when the men had been tried or when their sentences had been handed down.
The court on Tuesday said Sattar Sawut, the the former head of the regional education department, “incorporated ethnic separatism, violence, terrorism, and religious extremism content into minority-language textbooks.”
“Sattar Sawut took advantage of compiling and publishing ethnic language textbooks for primary and secondary schools to split the country, starting in 2002. He instructed others to pick several people with separatist thoughts to join the textbook compilation team, the court found," the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing comments by Wang at a news conference.
Also sentenced were three other education officials and two textbook editors, according to a documentary released by state broadcaster CCTV last week. The three officials received life in prison, while the penalties imposed on the editors were not immediately clear.
The son of one of the editors sentenced called the charges “absurd," saying his father had avoided politics and pointing out that the textbooks were deemed fine by the Chinese government for over a decade.
“These textbooks were sanctioned by the state,” said Kamaltürk Yalqun, son of imprisoned editor Yalqun Rozi. “China is trying to erase history and write a new narrative."