Ilham Weli

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Police in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, 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.  

Weli, deputy editor-in-chief of the state-owned newspaper Xinjiang Daily, was arrested 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 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, RFA reported.

Many accused of being "two-faced" recently in Xinjiang have 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.

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 Uighur 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. 

In October 2023, CPJ sent messages to the Xinjiang governmental service and the Xinjiang region prison administration via messaging app about Weli but did not receive a response.