Abliz Omer

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Police in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region arrested former journalist Abliz Omer in 2017. He is detained at an undisclosed location for allegedly producing “problematic” and “dangerous” books; no formal charges have been disclosed.

Police in Kashgar arrested Omer, a former editor-in-chief for the state-owned Kashgar Publishing House, in 2017, according to Radio Free Asia. Omer, who retired in the late 1990s, was arrested amid a crackdown on the publishing company, in which several other former and current staffers were also detained.

Police also arrested Ablajan Siyit, a deputy editor-in-chief and translator, and Osman Zunun, a former editor-in-chief chief who retired in 2008, 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.” 

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.

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. 

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 sent messages in September 2022 to the Kashgar Publishing House, the Kashgar Public Security Bureau, the Xinjiang governmental service, and the Xinjiang region prison administration via messaging app seeking information about Omer’s whereabouts, but received no responses.