Uighur family freed after three years, and reunited in Australia

Chinese authorities banned Sadam Abdusalam’s wife Nadila Wumaier and their son from leaving Xinjiang by confiscating their passports in 2017.

An Australian man, who is originally from China’s Muslim Uighur community, was reunited with his family, including a three-year-old son he had never met, after Beijing agreed they could depart Xinjiang.

Sadam Abdusalam posted photographs on social media on Friday of his family arriving at Sydney airport, and thanked Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne as well as human rights activists for their help.

“I never thought this day would come and I would dearly like to thank everyone who worked so hard to reunite us,” he wrote.

In 2017, Chinese authorities stopped Abdusalam’s wife Nadila Wumaier and son from leaving Xinjiang by confiscating their passports, in what became a high-profile human rights case in Australia.

Thank you Australian ,thank you everyone 🥰🥰💖💖💖💖💕 pic.twitter.com/IGNjsz2r7B — sadam_abdusalam (@SMusapir) December 10, 2020

Abdusalam had come to Australia as a student over a decade ago, and married Wumaier in Xinjiang in 2016. He became an Australian citizen in 2013.

Their son Lufty was born in Xinjiang, and was granted Australian citizenship in 2019, after Abdusalam urged the Australian government to help the family.

‘A long saga’

In February, after China’s deputy head of mission in Australia, Wang Xining, said on ABC Television that Abdusalam’s wife did not want to leave Xinjiang, she posted a photograph to Twitter holding a sign saying “I want to leave and be with my husband”.

Payne said in July the Australian embassy in Beijing had formally requested the Chinese authorities to allow Wumaier, a Chinese citizen, to leave.

China has been criticised at the United Nations Human Rights Council by countries including Australia and the United States for the arbitrary detention and restrictions on freedom of movement of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

According to witnesses and human rights activists, at least a million Uighurs and other ethnic Muslim minorities are being held in detention camps.

China has rejected the criticism, and says the camps are vocational schools where Uighurs learn new skills.

The family’s lawyer Michael Bradley confirmed to Reuters news agency that Lufty, 3, and his mother had arrived from China two weeks ago, and had flown to Sydney on Thursday after quarantining at a hotel in Brisbane.

According to witnesses and human rights activists, at least a million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are being held in camps for re-education [File: Ng Han Guan/AP Photo] Bradley, who was at the airport, said Abdusalam was overjoyed to see his wife, and meet his son for the first time.

“We are just thrilled it has ended this way. It has been a long saga,” Bradley added.

In a social media post, Sophie McNeill of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Australia, said the reunification was proof that “no injustice can last forever”. HRW had also helped Abdusalam put a spotlight on the case.

“It’s very easy to often want to give up – it all feels too much, too hard, too traumatic, little chance of success,” McNeill wrote.

“This is going to keep me going for a very long time.”