UNTIL 2017, Tashpolat Tiyip was a model academic, head of Xinjiang University, globally-connected, and with an honorary degree from a prestigious Paris university.
But that year, without warning, he disappeared, with no word from officials. His friends believe that after a secret trial, Prof Tiyip was convicted of separatism and sentenced to death.
Prof Tiyip is a Muslim Uighur, and rights groups say he was caught up in wider persecution of Uighur intellectuals as China tackles what it says is a separatist, terrorist threat.
“There are hundreds of Uighur academics and professionals swept up into this mass internment campaign,” Michael Caster, a researcher and author of The People’s Republic of the Disappeared, told the BBC.
“This is targeting community, cultural, and intellectual leaders; it is tantamount to cultural genocide.”
Fellow academics fear that if he is still alive and detained, Prof Tayip faces imminent execution.