Ilham Weli

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Urumqi police arrested journalist Ilham Weli in July 2018. He is detained at an undisclosed location on the accusation of being “two-faced,” although no formal charges have been disclosed. 

Police in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region arrested Weli, deputy editor-in-chief of the state-owned newspaper Xinjiang Daily, in late July 2018 for being a "two-faced" official who secretly opposes government policies in the region, according to the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Asia (RFA). Three of Weli’s colleagues were also arrested as accomplices in August 2018, RFA reported.

Xinjiang Daily‘s human resources director Liu Jianrong confirmed the arrest and referred RFA to the newspaper’s Party Discipline Committee for details of Weli’s case. The Party Discipline Committee told RFA that a working group dispatched by that committee investigated the newspaper in early July 2018 and concluded that Weli was “two-faced,” meaning openly supporting but secretly opposing government policy. 

RFA said it could not determine what evidence was being used against Weli. The “two-faced” accusation does not have a legal basis, but is often used when the Chinese government considers a person rebellious. 

According to RFA’s interview with the newspaper’s Party Discipline Committee director Shui Baoying, law enforcement officials interrogated Weli and found Memtimin Obul, Juret Haji, and Mirkamil Ablimit to be his accomplices. Obul, Haji, and Ablimit were arrested on August 6, 2018, at a public meeting at Xinjiang Daily‘s office in Urumqi, according to RFA.

Many of those accused of being "two-faced" recently in Xinjiang have simply disappeared, likely to re-education camps, according to news reports. The four men were accused of publishing "two-faced" articles in the newspaper’s Uighur-language section, according to RFA. 

CPJ was unable to determine whether Weli and his colleagues have been formally charged, or where they are being held.

Xinjiang Daily did not respond to CPJ’s email requesting comment in September 2021. 

The majority population of ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang are subject to cultural and religious repression, surveillance, arrest without charge, and internment, according to reports. 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 news reports. According to an annual survey conducted by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China in 2019, a vast majority of surveyed journalists who traveled to Xinjiang said they experienced government interference in their reporting. 

CPJ called the Urumqi Public Security Bureau in late 2019 but no one answered the phone. In late 2021, CPJ called that bureau again but the number was out of service. The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Prison Administration and the Xinjiang People’s Procuratorate did not respond to CPJ’s emails requesting information about Weli’s health and status in late 2021.