Detained Since: April 2016
Charges: Inciting ethnic hatred and ethnic discrimination.
Sentence: 15 years in prison.
Biography: Ekpar Asat is a Chinese Uyghur entrepreneur, philanthropist, and app developer who went missing in 2016. Asat developed a social media platform for Uyghurs in China called Bagdax, with over 100,000 users. Asat’s position as the head of Bagdax made him a household name for Uyghurs and likely drew the attention of Chinese authorities. Asat also participated in the State Department’s International Visitor’s Leadership Program, a prestigious foreign exchange program. He became involved in the program after a visit with then-American Ambassador to China Max Baucus in 2014. His interactions with the staff and the ambassador were impressive, and the embassy’s staff encouraged Asat to apply for the program. Once accepted to IVLP, Asat’s cohort focused on “Journalism in the United States.”
While in the United States as an IVLP participant, he met with his sister, Rayhan Asat, twice, once in Washington and once in New York. At the time, Ms. Asat was in her final year at Harvard Law School and was preparing to become the first Uyghur to ever graduate from HLS. Ekpar had planned to return to the United States with his parents to attend her graduation ceremony. Those plans were called off when Asat was detained and went missing in April 2016, just weeks after his return to his hometown of Urumqi from the United States. In early 2020, the Chinese Embassy in Washington informed Senator Coons that Asat was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of inciting ethnic discrimination and ethnic hatred. Trial records are not available, and it is unknown if Asat received due process.
Asat is being held in solitary confinement in Aksu prison camp.
Advocate: Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE)