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A Uyghur activist living in Paris has been moved to a secure location after a group of unidentified men appeared on her doorstep last week and called for her to let them in, according to the president of the European Uyghur Institute.

On the morning of May 8, eight unidentified people emerged from a black van with tinted windows outside the Paris home of Gulbahar Jelilova, a Uyghur businesswoman from Kazakhstan who spent 18 months in a Xinjiang internment camp, said Dilnur Reyhan, president of the institute.

At the time of the incident, Jelilova was away from her apartment, but neighbors told her the unidentified people repeatedly buzzed her unit — though the bell does not list her name, Reyhan said. They also called her cell phone several times.

As the group gathered in front of the building, Reyhan posted a photo on X, saying Jelilova was “terrified” by their presence. 

“Gulbahar herself saw the Chinese men when she reached the turn leading to her house and took a photo of them. She was scared and called me,” Reyhan told Radio Free Asia. 

“Their decision to ring the doorbell may have been intended to intimidate her, to send a message, or perhaps they had a specific purpose,” she said, adding that the car resembled “vehicle used for kidnappings.”

A May 8, 2024 post on X by Dilnur Reyhan, president of the European Uyghur Institute, shows men and women dressed in black standing near a van outside the residence of Gulbahar Jelilova. (@DilnurReyhan via X)

Reyhan said she called the police, who arrived and were told by the group they had come to see a Japanese rock garden they heard was in the building

She said “trusted sources” later reported all eight were Chinese nationals and that her group was helping prepare a court complaint against the group. RFA could not confirm their identity or nationality. 

Reyhan said such acts of intimidation had grown more common, and that she herself had been regularly followed by a car in recent months. 

Jelilova could not be reached, and the French police did not respond to requests for comment from Radio Free Asia. 

‘Tomorrow this could be me’

Gulbahar Haitiwaji, a Uyghur detained in China’s “re-education” camps for two years but who now lives in France said the incident at Jelilova’s apartment had unnerved many. 

“Because China is so ruthless, in the back of my mind I always think that one day they’ll bring about harm towards me,” she said. “For example, yesterday it was Gulbahar, tomorrow it could be me.”

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The incident took place one day after Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up his two-day state visit to France, his first stop on a three-country European visit. His arrival was greeted by several protests from Tibetan, Uyghur and Chinese activists – including Jelilova.

While such demonstrations have in the past been met, sometimes violently, with pro-Beijing counter-protests, there was little sign of that in Paris. 

But at a May 5 protest at Madeleine Square, which is located close to the French president’s residence, Uyghur activists were met by a small group of French-speaking counter-protesters. 

A video posted to Facebook shows about eight young men, all wearing masks and none of whom appear to be of Chinese descent, holding up letter-sized photos of World Uyghur Congress President Dolkun Isa with a mark across his face. 

As the crowd of protesters approach them, they shout “liar” and “they are bulls–ing us” in French, before running away as police pursue them for unknown reasons.  

Isa told RFA that he suspected the protests were the “result of the Chinese government’s arrangements, funding, or organization.”

The Chinese Embassy in Paris did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication. 

Translated by RFA Uyghur. Edited by Abby Seiff and Malcolm Foster.

This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by By Nuriman Abdureshid for RFA Uyghur.


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