Urumqi police arrested journalist Mentimin Obul in August 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 Obul, director of the state-owned newspaper Xinjiang Daily, on August 6, 2018, for allegedly being an accomplice to the deputy editor-in-chief, Ilham Weli, who is accused of being "two-faced" and secretly opposing government policies in the region, according to the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Asia (RFA).
Xinjiang Daily‘s human resources director Liu Jianrong confirmed Weli’s arrest and referred RFA to the newspaper’s Party Discipline Committee for details of Weli’s case, according to RFA. The Party Discipline Committee told RFA that a working group dispatched by the committee investigated the newspaper in early July and concluded that Weli was "two-faced." 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. The four men were accused of publishing "two-faced" articles in the newspaper’s Uighur-language section, according to RFA.
According to RFA’s interview with the newspaper’s Party Discipline Committee director Shui Baoying, law enforcement officials interrogated Weli and found 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.
As of September 2021, CPJ could not determine where Obul was being held, or whether he or his colleagues have been formally charged.
Xinjiang Daily did not respond to CPJ’s email requesting comment in September 2021.
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 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 Obul’s health and status in late 2021.