New York, July 13, 2009--Chinese police should halt the detentions of journalists reporting on ethnic violence in Xinjiang and reveal the whereabouts of a Uighur academic and Internet commentator who is missing and reportedly detained in Beijing, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
The Beijing-based academic and blogger Ilham
Tohti, a Uighur, has been missing since July 8 when he told a friend he had
received a notice of detention, according to international news reports. On
July 6, Beijing public security officials questioned Tohti, founder of the Uighurbiz
Web site, about recent postings on his site, a Chinese-language information
portal and forum about Uighur issues, according to international news reports.
Xinjiang detained reporter Heidi Siu, a reporter for Radio Free Asia's
Cantonese language service, for two days before deporting her to Hong Kong on Sunday, according to Dan Southerland, a RFA
senior editor. Siu, a Canadian citizen whose Chinese name is Siu Chun Yee, was
detained on July 10 while she was taking pictures of police moving to arrest Uighurs,
according to Southerland. The journalist's arrest was reported after she was
allowed to return briefly to the press center in Urumqi under police escort, Southerland told
CPJ by e-mail.
In separate incidents on July 10, police in Kashgar detained
AP photographer Elizabeth Dalziel and two Agence France-Presse reporters who
were not identified. Police expelled them, citing the risk of violence
spreading from the capital, Urumqi,
according to AFP and the Foreign
Correspondents Club of China. In a July 11 statement, the club said at
least four foreign journalists had been detained for hours in Urumqi.
"We are concerned that Ilham Tohti has been detained for
articles published on his Web site and ask that Beijing security officials clarify his
whereabouts and legal status," said Bob Dietz,
CPJ Asia program coordinator. "Police should also stop detaining and expelling
foreign journalists covering the unstable situation in Xinjiang."
Violent rioting between groups of Han Chinese and the Muslim
Uighur minority broke out in Urumqi on July 5,
possibly in response to reports of violence between the two ethnic groups in a Guangzhou factory,
according to international news reports. Authorities in Xinjiang were unusually welcoming
toward Chinese and foreign journalists covering the unrest, announcing at least
184 mostly Han fatalities. Yet the apparent openness was accompanied by a
broad shutdown of Internet and mobile phone connections.
Xiao Qiang, director of the University of California Berkeley's
China Internet Project told the BBC the riots
provoked "probably the most severe online policing I've ever seen" in an
interview posted on Berkeley's China Digital
Times Web site. Although authorities have begun to restore Internet
access to the city, several Web sites and online discussion forums remain
closed or censored, news reports say.
Gov. Nur Bekri had accused Ilham Tohti of using the Web site to collaborate with
exile Uighur groups to orchestrate the violence, according to The
Associated Press. Tohti had previously criticized Bekri by name on his Web
site, saying the governor did not care about Uighurs, according to
international news reports. Tohti is an economics professor at the Central Nationalities
University in Beijing, the reports said. Some Uighurs had
accused Uighurbiz of having links to
extremist separatist groups overseas
in June, but the Web site had been cleared in an official investigation,
according to Radio Free Asia.