Hawzah News Agency - (Beijing - China) - 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 five to 17, were dragged away after 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.
Even Uighurs who make it to the West have not always been safe.
Early last year, Germany mistakenly sent back to China a 22-year-old Uighur asylum-seeker, who has not been heard from since.
On Monday, Belgium said it was sending a special envoy to Beijing to clarify the whereabouts of Mr Tursun’s family.
The Belgian government also said its ambassador in Beijing would try to secure passports for Ms Abula and the children.
In Beijing, a spokesman for the foreign ministry, Lu Kang, said at a regularly scheduled news briefing on Tuesday that he had no knowledge of the case.
The government asserts that the Uighurs represent a terrorism threat to China and the world, an argument that is disputed by many Western nations, who see the internment effort as a systematic abuse of human rights.
Some Uighurs who managed to leave the camps have told of being subjected to intense indoctrination under armed guard.
Uighurs outside the camps have seen their cities and homes turned into virtual prisons thanks to surveillance technology and a heavy military presence.
The Belgian Embassy’s handling of the case has come under criticism.