China sentenced Sattar Sawut, former head of the Xinjiang Education Department, to death for his role in creating once-approved textbooks the government suddenly banned, the Associated Press reported.
The textbooks in question featured narratives the government had once approved of regarding a 1940s uprising against the then-ruling Chinese Nationalist Party for its ethnic repression, the Associated Press reported. A state-sponsored documentary about the material in the textbook reportedly said it incited ethnic hatred.
When Communists toppled the Nationalist government in 1949, Mao Zedong invited Uyghur leader Ehmetjan Qasimi to the first meeting of the Chinese national advisory board and told him, “your years of struggle are a part of our entire Chinese nation’s democratic revolution movement,” according to the AP. The Uyghur movement briefly formed an independent state in northern Xinjiang in 1944 with Soviet backing, the AP reported.
The textbooks at the core of Sawut’s sentence were approved by senior Chinese government officials in 2001, according to the AP. The books reportedly failed to attract attention during the editorial process because writers were more concerned about foreign stories than Uyghur stories portraying Nationalists as the enemy.
The official narrative about the 80-year-old Uyghur independence effort changed as international media outlets drew attention to China forcing millions of Uyghur Muslims into internment camps as part of an ethnic cleansing project, the AP reported. Uyghurs experience extreme violence and sexual torture in the camps, a former Chinese police officer toldCNN in October 2021.