Three police vans with at least five officers sit on a tree-lined street.
Armed police officers stand guard on a street in Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang region on May 4, 2021. CPJ called on Chinese authorities to release ethnic Kazakh journalists Kairat Domalin and Kuandyk Koben, who were arrested in the region in April 2024. (Photo: Reuters/Thomas Peter)

Chinese authorities arrest 2 ethnic Kazakh TV journalists in Xinjiang

Taipei, July 2, 2024—Chinese authorities must immediately release ethnic Kazakh journalists Kairat Domalin and Kuandyk Koben, who were arrested in China’s Xinjiang region, and cease harassing members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

Chinese police arrested Domalin and Koben in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang region, in April, according to the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Asia (RFA). The arrests were first reported by Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights, a human rights organization based in Kazakhstan’s biggest city, Almaty, in June.

They both worked as Kazakh-language television journalists for the local state-run television network Xinjiang Television in Urumqi.  

CPJ was unable to confirm what, if any, charges the pair face or other details about their arrest. According to RFA, Koben’s arrest may be linked to his work on a historic building in Xinjiang that the government has intentionally neglected.

“Chinese authorities must free Kazakh journalists Kairat Domalin and Kuandyk Koben,” said Iris Hsu, CPJ’s China representative. “It’s time for China to cease its campaign of harassing and arbitrarily detaining press members of the Muslim ethnic minorities and release all imprisoned journalists.”

Domalin was a TV presenter for the program “Zholaushy” (Traveler) on Xinjiang Television network, and Koben produced, directed, and presented Kazakh-language documentaries and more than 20 award-winning television programs.

CPJ’s call to the Public Security Department of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region went unanswered. 

Serikzhan Bilash, founder of Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights, told CPJ that Koben’s brother asked the organization to remove a May 10 YouTube video asking for information from the public about Koben’s arrest, fearing that the video would “complicate” Koben’s detainment. 

According to the RFA report, “several” Kazakh journalists for the state-owned newspaper Xinjiang Daily, along with a few Kazakh editors from different magazines, were also arrested. CPJ could not independently verify these arrests.

China was the world’s worst jailer of journalists, according to CPJ’s latest annual prison census, with at least 44 behind bars as of December 1, 2023. Many journalists held were ethnic Uyghurs from Xinjiang.

Human rights groups, the United Nations, and foreign governments have accused Chinese authorities of crimes against humanity and genocide in the Xinjiang region as authorities harshly repress the region’s Muslim ethnic groups.