July 8, 2009 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Concern about harsh crackdown following Xinjiang rioting

Reporters Without Borders is very worried by yesterday’s arrest in Beijing of Ilham Tohti, editor of the Uyghur Online blog ( and economics professor at Beijing’s Central Nationalities University, who had been relaying information about the rioting in Urumqi, the capital of the far-western province Xinjiang, since 26 June. “The crackdown is not limited to Xinjiang,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The authorities have arrested an independent writer who was just posting reports on his blog. We think his arrest is a direct result of the role he played in informing the Uyghur community in China and abroad. We call for his release, which could help to stop the violence.” This is the third time this year that Tohti’s blog has been blocked. The authorities pressured him to stop posting articles in March and June. On 12 March, for example, he posted this note: “I hope my readers will forgive me but I must remain silent for a while. I have to face a lot of threats and harassment. But whatever happens, I urge my friends to continue our struggle.” Tohti wrote on Uyghur Online about relations between Han Chinese and Uyghurs, the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang. The Bureau of Public Security said last month that “under the laws in force in China, certain subjects of conversation cannot be tolerated.” After the rioting on 5 July, Xinjiang’s authorities referred on national television to the Uyghur Online and websites as channels for organising the protests. Access to more than 50 Internet forums and discussion platforms, including Uyghur Online, has been blocked. Access has also been blocked to social-networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MSN messenger. Reporters Without Borders believes that this has been done with the deliberate aim of preventing Uyghur activism and the publication of news and information offering an alternative to the government’s propaganda. The Chinese authorities have cut Internet access in certain parts of Urumqi since 5 July. Foreign and Chinese journalists have been allowed access to Xinjiang but international telephone communications are blocked both from fixed lines and mobiles. Reports about the Urumqi riots have also been taken down from Chinese social-networking websites such as Youku and Fanfou. No comments about the events in Urumqi can be found anywhere through the Chinese web portals, and