Chinese authorities detain Uighur Web site managers

New York, October 30, 2009—Chinese police have reportedly arrested two Uighur journalists who published online about Uighur issues in Xinjiang, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Chinese authorities blamed local and international Uighur Web sites for fueling July’s ethnic violence, according to international news reports. 

Security officials arrested Web site manager Hailaite Niyazi in his home in the regional capital, Urumqi, on October 1, according to The Associated Press and Radio France Internationale today. Authorities informed his family on October 4 that he had been detained for endangering national security, RFI reported. Niyazi, who has worked for state newspapers Xinjiang Legal News and Xinjiang Economic Daily, also managed and edited the Web site Uighurbiz until June this year, according to AP.

A second Uighur Web site manager, Dilixiati Paerhati, has been missing since August 7, when unidentified men detained him in his apartment Urumqi, AP report said. Amnesty International publicized the case last week when Paerhati’s brother Dilimulati, a U.K.-based student, appealed for his release. Paerhati’s popular Web site, Diyarim, has been inaccessible since early July, when violent rioting sparked by ethnic tensions between indigenous Uighurs and Han Chinese who have settled in the area prompted a widespread crackdown on the Internet in Xinjiang. The autonomous region remains largely offline, according to international news reports.

“We are concerned that Hailaite Niyazi and Dilixiati Paerhati, who covered the volatile Xinjiang region, have been detained,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia program coordinator. Urumqi authorities must clarify their status immediately. Managing a Web site is not a crime.”

Paerhati was detained and interrogated about the riots on July 24 but released without charge after eight days. No formal notification of his arrest followed his disappearance on August 7 and his whereabouts are unknown, according to Amnesty. “He only edits a Web site, he hasn’t done anything wrong,” his brother told the group.

Uighurbiz founder Ilham Tohti was questioned about the contents of the site and detained for more than six weeks before being released in August, according to international news reports. Tohti told AP he did not publicize Niyazi’s arrest earlier for fear of damaging his case. Niyazi’s wife believes Niyazi gave interviews to foreign media outlets about the situation in July that may have led to the charge against him, Tohti told AP.

“In China, sometimes even if you are just defending human rights, if you say something a little bit extreme, you’ll be in trouble,” Niyazi told AP in July.