This week, Washington D.C.-based Uighur journalist Shohret Hoshur, sent CPJ a message saying that on May 28 charges had finally been brought against two of his brothers, Shawket and Rexim, who have been detained since August. Hoshur, who works for the U.S.-government funded Radio Free Asia (RFA), is convinced they are being put on trial to punish him for his outspoken reporting, although officially they have been charged with “leaking state secrets,” he says.
Another of Hoshur’s brothers, Tudaxun, was sentenced to five years in prison last year on similar state security charges.
Such overly broad charges are a regular tactic to silence critics of the government. In CPJ’s latest global prison census conducted December 1, 2014, China was the world’s worst jailer of journalists, with 44 behind bars, most of them facing anti-state charges.
But his brothers are not the target in this prosecution, Hoshur says. They are not politically active and have kept their focus on their businesses in Urumqi, the capitol of the restive Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Xinjiang is where Muslim groups have been agitating for more autonomy or even independence from China.
“Throughout this process, authorities have made it very clear to my brothers and my family in China that the persecution they have faced is due to my work as a journalist reporting on sensitive topics inside Xinjiang,” Hoshur said in his message to CPJ.
The family says all they know is that the two brothers are being held in a detention facility somewhere in Urumqi. They have neither seen nor heard from them since they were taken away. Even the attorney retained by the family has not been able to find out where they are being held. Tudaxun has been moved between prisons a few times since his sentencing.
“My other two brothers now will be tried in secret, without the presence of any family member, facing the charges of ‘leaking state secrets.’ We refuse to believe the credibility of these charges, knowing how careful I have always been in not using my relatives as sources for my stories. No one deserves to endure what my family–and the families of my brothers–have had to face for the past year. The uncertainty in the absence of their families’ fathers and husbands is unwarranted and needlessly cruel,” he said.
Globally, the case of Hoshur’s brothers has gained some notice but, not surprisingly, it has gone unreported in China. A search for “Radio Free Asia” on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, only yields the result “according to relevant laws, regulations and policies, the search results for ‘Radio Free Asia’ cannot be displayed.” And a search for “Shohret Hoshur” or any of the brother’s names on Weibo shows no results. Outside of China, a Google search of the names show that websites that mention the case are all Chinese-language websites based overseas.
In his message to CPJ, Hoshur says he will not back down on his reporting for RFA, out of respect for his profession and the work other reporters have done from the field.
UPDATE: The first paragraph of this blog has been changed to correct the spelling of the name of Hoshur’s brother, Rexim.