The Belgian government has come under fire for an incident in late May in which it allowed Chinese police to detain a Uighur family seeking assistance at the country’s Beijing embassy. Wureyetiguli Abula was seeking visas for herself and her four children, aged 5 to 17, in order to join her husband in Brussels, where he had been granted asylum.
BEIJING — The last time Abdulhamid Tursun spoke to his wife, she was huddled in a Beijing hotel room with their four children, frightened after being evicted from the Belgian Embassy in the dead of night. Suddenly, plainclothes police officers burst into the room, cutting off the couple’s video call.
Mr. Tursun says he has not heard from her since.
His wife, Wureyetiguli Abula, 43, had gone to the Belgian Embassy to seek visas so the family — from the Uighur Muslim minority group — could be reunited with Mr. Tursun, 51, in Brussels, where he won asylum in 2017.
But instead of finding protection, Ms. Abula and her children, ages 5 to 17, were dragged away after the Chinese police were allowed to enter the embassy.
Now the case is raising alarms back in Belgium, where lawmakers are asking how it could have happened and where Mr. Tursun’s family has been taken. It illustrates how, two years after China began detaining Uighurs in a vast network of internment camps, the group has limited protections — even from Western democracies — against persecution by the Chinese government.
After a disagreement over the travel documents, consular officials permitted police to enter the embassy and remove the family, who have since been placed under house arrest in Xinjiang. Writing in Foreign Policy, acquaintances of the family referred to a 2018 case in Germany in which a bureaucratic error led to the deportation of a 22-year-old Uighur man, who has not been heard from since. After that incident, Germany and Sweden ordered a halt to any deportations of Uighurs to China.
Separately, the United Nations counterterrorism chief, Russian diplomat Vladimir Voronkov, has been criticized for making a trip to Xinjiang in mid-June and failing to mention the mass detention of Uighurs in “reeducation” camps. US deputy secretary of state John Sullivan condemned the visit as an endorsement of the Chinese government’s efforts to depict “its repressive campaign against Uighurs and other Muslims as legitimate counterterrorism efforts when it is not.”