A US government-funded broadcaster based in Washington, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported last week that the families of its Uyghur-speaking journalists are the targets of growing harassment by the Chinese authorities in Xinjiang, the northwestern province where this Turkic language is spoken by the province’s Muslim majority.
The Chinese authorities recently stepped up their religious and cultural persecution of Xinjiang’s Uyghur community on the grounds of waging a “war on terrorism.”
“Trying to prevent journalists from doing their job by persecuting their families is not only cowardly but also violates both international law and the Chinese constitution,” said Cédric Alviani, the head of RSF’s East Asia desk. “The international community must use all possible forms of pressure to get the Chinese government to stop resorting to such cruel reprisals.”
At a time when the Chinese authorities are making it increasingly difficult for foreign journalists to report from Xinjiang, RFA’s Uyghur-speaking journalists are a very valuable sources of information about what is happening in the troubled province.
RSF said the families of four of its ethnic Uyghur journalists – Shohret Hoshur, Gulchehra Hoja and Mamatjan Juma, who are US citizens, and Kurban Niyaz, a Green Card holder – have been harassed for years and that the harassment has increased in recent months, with several of their close relatives either being arrested or disappearing.
Reprisals against relatives is one of the Chinese regime’s favourite methods of putting pressure on its opponents. Li Huaiping, the wife of a New York-based Chinese-American journalist, was kidnapped from her home in the southern city of Guangzhou in September in attempt to stop him publishing revelations about President Xi Jinping.
China is ranked very near the bottom of RSF's World Press Freedom Index (176th out of 180 countries).