SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A South Korean university said Tuesday the Uyghur student who reportedly went missing in Hong Kong after being interrogated did not travel to the city recently, adding fresh questions to the mystery of his whereabouts.
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 not been heard from since he texted his friend about being questioned at the city’s airport.
But Seoul’s Kookmin University, where the student is pursuing a doctorate in sports studies, told The Associated Press he is still in South Korea. The student has been frequently contacting his professor over his Ph.D. preparations, according to the school’s public affairs office.
Amnesty said it was trying to independently confirm the student’s whereabouts and safety, adding it will be able to provide a further response when it has more information.
The Associated Press has not been able to directly contact the student and the university refused to provide his contact details, citing privacy concerns. The school has not provided evidence of the student’s whereabouts, but said the professor communicated with him and confirmed his presence in South Korea. The professor didn’t respond to calls from the AP.
The alleged disappearance of Abuduwaili Abudureheman, who has been studying in Seoul for seven years, sparked widespread concerns on social media since Amnesty first reported his case, saying the student appeared to have been detained and interrogated. Amnesty raised questions about the Hong Kong government’s possible involvement in human rights violations that rights groups accuse the Chinese government of committing against Uyghurs.
A day later, the Hong Kong government hit back at what it called “groundless and unfounded remarks” as an attempt to smear it. It said government records showed the student had not entered the city, nor was he refused entry, and it requested an apology from the group.
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 and photos and satellite images of the Xinjiang region where many Uyghurs live.
Many Uyghurs in exile have tried to search for family members who were detained or went missing in China, but say communication is difficult because of pervasive surveillance there. They also feared that being contacted from overseas might get their families into trouble.
Leung reported from Hong Kong.