Security officials arrested Niyaz, a website manager who is sometimes referred to as Hailaite Niyazi, in his home in the regional capital, Urumqi, according to international news reports. He was convicted of endangering state security and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
According to reports, Niyaz was punished because of an August 2, 2009, interview with Yazhou Zhoukan (Asia Weekly), a Chinese-language magazine based in Hong Kong. In the interview, Niyaz said authorities had not taken steps to prevent violence before ethnic unrest in July 2009 in China's far-western Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
Niyaz, who once worked for the state newspapers Xinjiang Legal News and Xinjiang Economic Daily, managed and edited the website Uighurbiz until June 2009. A statement posted on the website quoted Niyaz's wife as saying that although he had given interviews to international media, he had no malicious intentions.
Authorities blamed local and international Uighur sites for fueling the violence between Uighurs and Han Chinese in the predominantly Muslim Xinjiang region.
According to the Hong Kong-based group Chinese Human Right Defenders, as of late 2016 Niyaz was being held in Changji prison in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. CPJ was unable to determine if that was still his location in late 2018, nor could it determine the state of his health or the conditions under which he was being held. Uighur rights groups contacted by CPJ in September 2018 said they had no new information on Niyaz’s case.