Taipei, August 24, 2017–Chinese authorities should end their harassment of international journalists and let all media operate freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Police yesterday briefly detained the Asia correspondent for Canada’s Globe and Mail in Kashgar, in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
Police detained Nathan VanderKlippe, The Globe and Mail‘s Beijing-based correspondent, for three hours, searched his bag and camera, and confiscated his laptop, the journalist said on Twitter. The journalist’s paper reported that police did not provide him with a reason for his detainment.
VanderKlippe was detained while interviewing residents in the township of Elishku about the security situation of the Uighur community, according to The Globe and Mail. Three police officers and several government officials approached the journalist and demanded that he follow them to a local government office, the report said.
“People living inside and outside of China have a right to know what is going on in the country, and there is no legal basis for harassing foreign correspondents who interview Chinese citizens,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler, in Washington D.C. “China needs to stop trying to block coverage of sensitive stories, including on the Uighurs.”
VanderKlippe said on Twitter that after authorities gave him permission to leave, a car with two officers in it followed him. The reporter said that his computer was later returned to him along with a handwritten note, marked with an incorrect date, which read, “On July 24, 2017 at 1:35 Beijing time, [we] confiscated Nathan VanderKlippe’s Apple computer for operation purposes.”
The Xinjiang region has been a site of tension in recent years as Chinese authorities tighten controls in the area and criminalize religious activities of the Uighur population. Residents of Elishku last month protested the arrests of 12 women for praying at a mosque and allegations of illegal use of force and extra-judicial killings by Chinese security forces, according to Radio Free Asia. Journalists covering the region have long been censored and jailed.
Conditions for the international press in China continue to deteriorate. The Foreign Correspondents Club of China 2016 survey of working conditions for international journalists found that more than half of respondents had been subjected to harassment, violence, or interference while attempting to report in China. Conditions for the local media are even worse, with journalists arrested, sentenced to years in prison, and subject to strict censorship requirements, CPJ research shows.