Police in Kashgar, a city in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, arrested Chimengul Awut, a poet and editor for the state-owned Kashgar Publishing House, in July 2018, according to Radio Free Asia. Awut was arrested as part of a more than year-long crackdown on the publishing company in which several other former and current staff were detained.
As well as Awut, police arrested Ablajan Siyit, a deputy editor-in-chief and translator, and former editors-in-chief Osman Zunun, who retired 10 years ago, and Abliz Omer, who retired 20 years ago, according to the RFA report. The report did not name the other staff arrested.
According to the report, the staff 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.
When CPJ called the local judiciary, the person who answered the phone immediately hung up at the mention of Siyit’s name.
CPJ’s repeated call to the Kashgar Publishing House and the Kashgar Public Security Bureau went unanswered.
In late 2018, CPJ was unable to determine whether authorities had charged Siyit, Awut, Zunun, or Omer, or where the journalists were being held.
The arrest comes amid China’s crackdown in recent years on Uighurs, whom authorities accuse of having “politically incorrect” ideas or of being “two-faced,” RFA reported. An October 2018 report by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) a U.S. congressional advisory panel, found “mass, arbitrary, internment of as many as 1 million or more Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in ‘political reeducation’ camps in western China.”
Uighurs in Xinjiang are subject to cultural and religious repression, surveillance, arrest without charge, and internment. As a result, people live in a climate of intense fear and are often too scared to provide information to others about those who disappear into state custody for fear of retaliation. International journalists have found access prohibited or highly restrictive, according to a 2017 survey by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China. CPJ has documented cases of foreign correspondents and local journalists facing harassment and detention in Xinjiang.