SEOUL – Amnesty International acknowledged Tuesday that a Uyghur student who it had said was missing in Hong Kong after being interrogated did not travel to the city, easing concerns over his safety but raising questions over how the allegations first emerged.
The human rights group said last Friday that Abuduwaili Abudureheman, who was born in Xinjiang in western China, had traveled to Hong Kong from South Korea to visit a friend on May 10 and had not been heard from since he texted his friend about being questioned at the city's airport.
But Amnesty International said the student told the group on Tuesday that he did not travel to Hong Kong, “contrary to previous information received.”
“We are pleased that Abuduwaili Abudureheman is accounted for,” it said. “We will continue to strive to offer support to people who reach out to us when they believe they or their loved ones are at risk of human rights violations.”
It did not provide further details about what had happened, and did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The correction by Amnesty International came after Seoul's Kookmin University, where the student is pursuing a doctorate in sports studies, told The Associated Press that he was still in South Korea. It said the student has been frequently contacting his professor over his doctoral preparations.
The school declined to provide the student's contact details, citing privacy concerns. It did not provide evidence of the student's whereabouts, but said the professor communicated with him and confirmed his presence in South Korea. The professor didn’t respond to calls from the AP.
Abuduwaili Abudureheman has been studying in Seoul for seven years. In alleging his disappearance, Amnesty International said last Friday that he appeared to have been detained and interrogated at Hong Kong's airport. It raised questions about the Hong Kong government’s possible involvement in human rights violations that rights groups accuse the Chinese government of committing against Uyghurs.
A day later, the Hong Kong government called the accusations “groundless and unfounded” and an attempt to smear it. It said government records showed the student had not entered the city, nor was he refused entry, and it requested an apology from the group.
Amnesty International did not apologize in its correction. Instead, it said it will continue to monitor the human rights situation of Uyghurs in mainland China and overseas, as well as the human rights situation in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong's government expressed outrage at the lack of an apology and said Amnesty International was "attempting to cover up its mistakes and excuse itself for making the fabricated and malicious remarks that slandered Hong Kong and the mainland.”
The United Nations and human rights groups accuse China of detaining a million or more Uyghurs and members of other predominantly Muslim groups in camps where many have said they were tortured, sexually assaulted and forced to abandon their language and religion.
China denies the accusations, which are based on interviews with survivors and photos and satellite images of the Xinjiang region where many Uyghurs live.
Leung reported from Hong Kong.