Police in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region arrested Uighur journalist Ablajan Siyit in October 2018. He is detained at an undisclosed location for allegedly producing “problematic” and “dangerous” books, though no formal charges have been disclosed.
Police in Kashgar arrested Siyit, deputy editor-in-chief and translator for the state-owned Kashgar Publishing House, on October 15, 2018, according to Radio Free Asia. Siyit was arrested amid a crackdown on the publishing company, in which several other former and current staffers were detained.
Police also arrested former editors-in-chief Osman Zunun, who retired in 2008, and Abliz Omer, who retired in the late 1990s according to the RFA report. The report did not name the other staffers who were arrested.
According to the report, the staffers are accused of producing books that were deemed “problematic” or “dangerous.”
Siyit was a member of the Chinese Communist Party and a member of the local Standing Committee.
RFA cited a member of the local judiciary as saying in a phone interview that the arrests were part of a government investigation into books that may be politically sensitive. The judiciary member said that Kashgar Publishing House was accused of publishing more than 600 books that fell into this category. The investigation focused on authors, editors, and those who authorized the publications, according to Radio Free Asia.
When CPJ called the local judiciary in 2018, the person who answered the phone immediately hung up at the mention of Siyit’s name.
In late 2022, CPJ was unable to determine whether authorities had charged Siyit, Zunun, or Omer with any crimes, or where they were being held. CPJ called the Kashgar Publishing House, the Kashgar Public Security Bureau, and the Kashgar Justice Bureau at the numbers listed on their websites, but none of those numbers were in service.
The arrest came amid China’s ongoing crackdown on the Uighurs, whom authorities have accused of having “politically incorrect” ideas or of being “two-faced,” according to RFA. “Two-faced” is used by the authorities to describe those they see as openly supporting but secretly opposing government policy.
A 2019 report by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, a U.S. congressional advisory panel, found that China had arbitrarily detained at least one million Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Hui ethnic minorities, and others, in a “system of extrajudicial mass internment camps.” The commission’s 2022 report noted that China has continued to expand Xinjiang’s detention facilities, including mass internment camps, and maintained a system of forced labor involving camp detainees
The majority population of ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang are subject to cultural and religious repression, surveillance, arrest without charge, and internment. For fear of government retaliation and further abuses, people inside the region are often reluctant to provide information about those who disappear into state custody. According to an annual survey conducted by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China in 2022, a vast majority of surveyed journalists who traveled to Xinjiang said they experienced government interference in their reporting.
CPJ contacted the Kashgar Publishing House, the Kashgar Public Security Bureau, the Xinjiang governmental service, and the Xinjiang region prison administration in September 2022 to ask about Siyit’s whereabouts, but did not receive a response.