TOKYO – Last summer, Halmat Rozi, a Uyghur Muslim living in Japan, received a video call from his brother in China’s western Xinjiang region. His brother said he wanted Mr. Rozi to meet someone: a Chinese security guard.
The main Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, had been invited to Japan and the officer had questions. Were Mr. Rozi and his fellow Uyghur activists planning protests? Who were the leaders of the group? What work were they doing? If Mr. Rozi cooperated, his family in China would be well taken care of, the officer assured him during a second video call.
The officer’s intention was clear – to discourage Mr. Rozi from doing anything that could damage China’s reputation in Japan. The warning had the opposite effect. Mr Rozi had invited the Japanese public broadcaster, NHK, to surreptitiously record the second call, which was then broadcast to millions of viewers.
The images provided a rare look at Beijing’s efforts to cultivate and intimidate Chinese ethnic minorities abroad, and they contributed to a growing awareness in Japan of China’s repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.