Police in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region arrested Ilham Weli, Xinjiang Daily’s deputy editor-in-chief; Memtimin Obul and Juret Haji, directors at the same newspaper; and Mirkami Ablimit, the head of the newspaper's subsidiary Xinjiang Farmer's Daily, between late July and early August for publishing “two-faced” articles in the newspaper’s Uyghur language section. The vague term “two-faced” is adopted by the Chinese authorities to accuse those who allegedly secretly oppose government policies.
“By inventing the crime of being ‘two-faced’, Chinese authorities only highlight that there is no valid reason for arresting these journalists,” said Cédric Alviani, the head of Reporters Without Borders (RSF)’s East Asia bureau. “Not satisfied with having virtually banned the region’s access to foreign media, President Xi Jinping is obviously trying to gag local media that does not print his propaganda.”
China’s escalation of its mass, systemic crackdown of the Turkic Muslims in the past few years in the northwestern province of Xinjiang has seen increasing arbitrary detention of many Uyghur journalists and their families. Journalist lham Tohti, recipient of the Sakharov Prize and founder of Uyghur Online, was condemned to life imprisonment in 2014. Last month, the head of Buzzfeed Beijing was expelled from China for her reporting on Xinjiang.
Ranked 176th out of 180 territories in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index, China currently imprisons more than 50 journalists and bloggers.