Rahile Dawut hasn't been seen for eight months—and some are calling it proof of China's intensifying crackdown on the Uighur ethnic minority, the New York Times reports. A 52-year-old academic, Dawut wrote and lectured across the country about Uighur folklore, shrines, and music, and even received official government support. Then she vanished on a trip from Beijing to the Uighur-dominated Xinjiang region in December. "Virtually all expressions of Uighurs' unique culture are dangerous now, and there's no better evidence of that than the disappearance of Rahile Dawut," says an academic at Loyola University New Orleans who has researched Uighurs. "There was a lot of hope that they would see that she was a nonthreat and release her, but that hope gradually dwindled."
Dawut is far from alone: With President Xi Jinping redoubling anti-Uighur efforts, the UN says China is likely holding a million Uighurs in secret camps, Reuters reports. Among the disappeared are a popular musician, a soccer star, writers, and webmasters. But Dawut's apparent arrest is proof that "any Uighur academic with foreign ties is branded a 'two-faced intellectual'—disloyal to the state and in need of re-education," says a student of Uighur music in London. "The accounts of the 're-education' regime that people are undergoing in those camps are harrowing." Long nervous about the mostly Muslim group, Chinese officials grew alarmed after deadly Uighur riots in 2009 and violent assaults in 2014, per the Times. But an ethnographer like Dawut appeared out of bounds—until now. (Read more China stories.)