They posted online that some Uyghurs are missing after China on 9 December announced the graduation of trainees once influenced by extremism from vocational education and training centres.
After digging into the online information released by some individuals and organisations on the alleged missing Uyghurs, getting confirmation from the authorities in Xinjiang and visiting some of the "missing people" in different places in the autonomous region, reporters from the Global Times (GT) found that they are in fact living normal lives.
The allegedly "missing" people met by the GT reporters slammed those who have taken advantage of their identities and sought to interfere with China's internal affairs, and told those who posted about them to stop disturbing their peaceful lives.
The hashtag "StillNoInfo" has been used on social media platforms Twitter and Facebook in the past week.
With the hashtag, some overseas Uyghur people posted photos and names, claiming their relatives or friends can't be contacted and have gone missing.
Some online organisations have also posted photos and names of allegedly "missing" Uyghur people in China.
The Global Times found that many figures who were engaged in starting the activity to find "missing Uyghurs" on overseas social media are members of "East Turkistan" separatist groups and this is their latest attempt to smear China's Xinjiang policies.
For example, Rushan Abbas, leader of the so-called Campaign for Uyghurs, and Halmurat Harri, who started the "MeTooUyghur" activity, are found to be members of "East Turkistan" separatist groups. They first stole some Uyghurs' photos and information, claimed these people were "missing" relatives in Xinjiang, spread rumours on overseas media and had interactions with certain media outlets. Some overseas nongovernmental organizations, especially Human Rights Watch, have also been taking an active role in promoting these rumours.
Trainees who used to be influenced by extremism have graduated from the vocational education and training centres in Xinjiang, and the training centres will be open to officials, herdsmen and other people willing to gain vocational skills, a senior Xinjiang official said at a press conference on 9 December.
The "StillNoInfo" campaign was launched at the same time on Twitter and Facebook, with people charging that the Uyghur people they know in China are still missing.
However, the GT reporters met several people on the "StillNoInfo" list and found that they have been home for months and are on the right path and living regular lives after graduating from the training centre.
Ruzi Memet told the Global Times that all his classmates in the training centre have graduated and been employed.
Now every morning he takes a bus with some neighbours to the factory, working eight hours a day and earning 2,500 yuan ($350) a month.
"I should have made more effort so that I could earn 3,000 yuan a month", he said.
Ruzi Memet lives with his family in an 80-square-meter house built with the help of the local authorities.
The family grows tomatoes, tulips, Chinese cabbages and grapes, which have brought them an income of 16,000 yuan this year. They also keep sheep and cows.
The day before the Global Times visited, Ruzi Memet just got married. "I bought a suite for the wedding", he said shyly.
However, for this family, Memet Tohti Atawulla, the elder brother, is an unspeakable scar. The Global Times learned that he was suspected of having joined the "East Turkistan" separatist group and has been attacking China's Xinjiang policy. Recently, the elder brother claimed his brother Ruzi Memet was missing.
On 10 December, Memet Tohti posted on Twitter with the hashtag "StillNoInfo", claiming that his mother and brothers are suffering in "Chinese camps".
Ruzi Memet could not hide his sadness talking about his elder brother. "Brother, you said you went abroad to study, but now you are with the separatist force and attack our [country's] policy", he said.
"Our life is getting better and we have a new house. I hope you stop colluding with the separatists. Our father is getting old and we all miss you a lot", he said, choking with sobs.
'I Am Not Missing'
In addition to those who graduated from the vocational education and training centres, the normal lives of many others living in Xinjiang are also disturbed by online rumours saying those people are afflicted and missing.
Tayir Ablat, 26 and from Urumqi, is now working at Liangxing restaurant in his hometown of Alali town, Shule county of Kashi. The young man has been working in the restaurant for seven months and was promoted to manager for his good performance.
On 10 December, Twitter user "HusenjanObul" posted three photos, including a selfie of Tayir. The words on the photo read: "Where's my cousin."
Tayir said that he does not know of any relatives or friends living overseas. He felt that some overseas separatist forces have taken advantage of his information to smear China.
"I am not missing", he said.
"I live a good life here. I have made money, about 20,000 or 30,000 yuan so far", he noted.
In July, under Tayir's suggestion, the restaurant opened the second floor to sell local villagers other kinds of food - pizzas, hamburgers and hotpot - which attract many young people and children who are interested in trying it.
He said that in the future he plans to open a Xinjiang restaurant in Xi'an, more than 2,000 kilometers' distance from Urumqi, because his younger brother is studying at Xi'an University of Science and Technology.
"I could take care of him and make money", he said.
Abudkerim lives a quiet life with his wife and two sons in the residential community of the bus company in northern Urumqi. His 75-square-meter apartment has typical Uyghur decor with elegant wallpaper and carpets. In his spare time, Abudkerim likes to take care of his plants on the balcony.
His eldest son, 19, will graduate from a technical secondary school next year, majoring in computer science. Employees from the community have promised to help find a job for the young man. Abudkerim's younger son, in grade 5, is also a top student in his class.
Twitter user "Mustapa0991" posted "I #StillNoInfo with my family." In the photo the Twitter user posted, a man holds a board with pictures of people. Abudkerim's photo is in the top right hand corner of the board.
Abudkerim wonders who posted his photo and name.
"I am living at home. Please do not share lies and affect our good lives", he said.
The GT reporters also met some Uyghur people in Xinjiang whose identities have been used to hype by their own relatives, even their own children.
Aziz Niyaz and Meryam Gayit, an old couple in Kuqa county, Aksu region, were also described as "missing" on overseas social networks.
Aziz retired in July 2019 from the county's water conservancy authority in Kuqa. He and his wife now enjoy the life of taking care of their three-year-old grandson at home. When the GT reporters arrived at Aziz's home, he was playing with a toy car with his grandson.
After retirement, Aziz lives a routine life. "My pension is 5,300 yuan. Now the country promotes many kinds of favourable policies, such as medical care for senior citizens. Our grandchild enjoys 15 years of free compulsory education; we do not need to worry", he said.
Aziz's three children all studied medicine. His son Yusup works in the People's Hospital of Kuqa. His two daughters are both abroad, but they have not contacted the family for two years.
"We miss them. We do not know what their life is like now and hope they will come back soon", Yusup told the Global Times. However, what the couple does not know is that their younger daughter Buwajar posted the couple's picture online and said they were missing.
On 9 December, Twitter account "mahire" posted some photos of the old couple, saying "this is my family" and that they went missing with many other Uyghurs.
"Sister, our father and mother are with me now. I do not know where this rumour came from", Yusup said. "I hope you do not listen to the rumour, study well and come back safely."
This article was originally published by The Global Times.