Journalist's Sentencing Signals Continued Suppression of Uighurs
  • Mon, 07/26/2010 - 12:00

Washington – July 26, 2010 –
The sentencing of Uighur journalist Hailaite Niyaz is another sign of the Chinese government’s continued efforts to restrict freedom of expression overall, as well as its ongoing suppression of the rights of the Uighur people, according to Freedom House.
Niyaz was sentenced to 15 years in prison Friday on charges that he endangered state security as a result of his reporting on the outbreak of violence that occurred in Xinjiang, after police forcibly suppressed a peaceful Uighur demonstration in Urumqi last July. Niyaz, a journalist, writes for several publications but the source of his arrest stems from his website management of Uighurbiz, a Uighur site that the Chinese government has accused of fueling the violence. Also detained were Ilham Tohti and Dilixiati Paerhati; Tohti was released after six weeks, and the fate of Paerhati is unknown.
“These arrests only further demonstrate the Chinese government’s fear of any message that it cannot control, and it is unfortunate that this results in silencing outlets that simply want to promote peaceful, productive dialogue,” said Paula Schriefer, advocacy director at Freedom House. “Freedom House calls on Chinese authorities to drop the charges against Mr. Niyaz and Mr. Dilixiati and release them immediately.”
The Chinese authorities responded to the events in Xinjiang with a harsh crackdown that included large-scale arrests and an almost complete shutdown of internet access, international phone service, and text messaging in the region that remained in effect for several months. The move was part of a broader strategy aimed at preventing the spread of unofficial accounts of events in the region, normal access was not restored until May 2010.
“This case reflects ongoing attempts by the Chinese government to suppress the fundamental rights of Uighurs and to silence any voices that support them,” said Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, senior program manager for International Religious Freedom and Global Human Rights.
Over the past few years, the Chinese government has stepped up efforts to suppress the Uighur people with increased cases of unlawful arrests, suspicious deaths while in custody, torture, and executions. Many Uighurs remain imprisoned since the crackdown in July 2009. In addition, Uighurs’ religious and cultural practices have been repressed and they have been branded “religious extremists.”
China is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2010, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2010 and Not Free in Freedom on the Net.