Uyghur Christian Alimujiang Yimiti has been released from prison in China after completing a 15-year sentence.
Partners of UK-based Release International, which serves persecuted Christians around the world, confirm the Uyghur house church pastor is now back at home with his family.
Alimujiang Yimiti, also known as Alim, was arrested in 2008 for allegedly ‘inciting separatism’ and ‘providing state secrets to overseas organisations’.
Release international’s partners say the Christian was jailed for 15 years after a phone conversation with an American businessman. During the call, Alim mentioned that phone conversations could be monitored by state security.
Alim was right – his phone had been tapped, and for pointing out that possibility he found himself accused of giving away state secrets.
No evidence was ever produced to suggest his conversation had included any sensitive information.
Alim converted from Islam to Christianity in 1995 and served as a house church pastor to Uyghurs in Kashgar, Xinjiang.
Most of the Uyghur people are Muslims, but it’s estimated that up to 1,000 have embraced the Christian faith, which is being increasingly repressed in China.
According to Release International partner ChinaAid, Alim’s Christian activism ‘painted a target on his back’. As early as 2007, the authorities were accusing him of using his business to ‘infiltrate’ Christian ideology into the region.
China stands accused of taking draconian action against the Uyghur people in Xinjiang to try to stem what it fears could become a growing separatist movement.
According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom:
‘Religious freedom conditions in China continue to deteriorate. The communist Chinese government has created a high-tech surveillance state, utilising facial recognition and artificial intelligence to monitor and harass Christians… and other religions.
‘Independent experts estimate that between 900,000 and 1.8 million Uyghur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and other Muslims have been detained in more than 1,300 concentration camps in Xinjiang.’
Alim was first held on January 12, 2008 and tried in secret on charges of ‘inciting separatism’. Eventually, the prosecution dropped the separatism charge and tried him again in secret for what was effectively espionage.
Inmates have described facing constant video surveillance and electric shocks.
And along with other Uyghurs, Alim has been subject to what the Chinese call ‘re-education’ – brainwashing.
Release International’s partner ChinaAid reports the authorities forced Alimujiang and other prison inmates to constantly wear headphones tuned into communist propaganda. They were made to memorise what they hear.
The authorities prevented Alim’s wife Gulinuer and two sons from visiting him in prison and posted security guards in their home. Gulinuer came under constant surveillance, to the extent of even having a guard with her in the lavatory.
Release International CEO Paul Robinson says: ‘We are delighted that at long last Alim and his family can get on with their lives. it is a bitter irony that he has had to face 15 years in prison for nothing more than stating the self-evident truth that Chinese officials were listening in to his telephone conversations.
‘Alim is one of many prisoners of faith around the world. They are a powerful witness to the living hope of the living God in their lives. Please keep praying for prisoners such as Alim. And please pray for Alim, Gulineur and their children that they will be allowed to resume their normal family life and to live in freedom.’
Release International’s partner ChinaAid has supported Alim in his legal defence. Its President Bob Fu said: ‘His faith remains very strong. He thanks God for sending him to that prison, so that he could continue to share and live out the gospel in the dark prisons in Xinjiang.’
Release is active in more than 25 countries around the world, working through partners to prayerfully, pastorally and practically support the families of Christian martyrs, prisoners of faith and their families; Christians suffering oppression and violence, and Christians forced to flee.