HUMAN rights volunteers from Colchester have mounted a campaign to free a man from jail in China.

The town’s branch of Amnesty International is acting on behalf of people in the little-known Chinese region of Xinjiang, home to the Uighur people.

Uighurs, who have their own language and are generally Muslim, have complained of discrimination and religious interference from the Chinese authorities.

In 1998, Uighurs, accused of campaigning for greater political independence, were shot in government raids.

A man called Abdurazzak Shamseden, the uncle of a suspected agitator, was arrested with no apparent cause.

He remains in jail today and the Colchester group has taken up his cause, writing dozens of letters to Chinese officials and fighting to publicise his case.

Amnesty acknowledges it is difficult to know what impact the letters are having and, if Mr Shamseden is released, it will be impossible to say for certain the campaign played a part.

But Stuart Woodward, Colchester group chairman, said: “If you don’t do it and speak up, then nothing would be done.

“A lot of people who perform human rights violations think they can do it because nobody knows about it, but, with Amnesty and the professional people we have working for us, we can bring it to the public eye.”

The Colchester branch of Amnesty International was established in 1977 and has 65 members.

Amnesty, the world’s largest human rights organisation, campaigns to free prisoners of conscience detained because of their peacefully held beliefs, ethnic origin, sexuality, colour, language or religion.

The Colchester group has been campaigning for years, with town centre demonstrations and vigils, against human rights abuses in communist China.

Mr Woodward said: “Joining Amnesty is a way of making sure people’s human rights are respected. It is neutral in respect of politics and religion.”

The Colchester Group meets at the Friends Meeting House, in Church Street, on the fourth Wednesday of each month.

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