Tursunjan Hezim

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Details of Hezim’s arrest after the 2009 ethnic unrest in northwestern Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region first emerged in March 2011. Police in Xinjiang detained international journalists and severely restricted Internet access for several months after rioting broke out between groups of Han Chinese and the predominantly Muslim Uighur minority on July 5, 2009, in Urumqi, the regional capital.

The U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia, citing an anonymous source, reported that a court in the region’s far western district of Aksu had sentenced Hezim, along with other journalists and dissidents, in July 2010. Several other Uighur website managers received heavy prison terms for posting articles and discussions about the previous year’s violence, according to CPJ research.

Hezim edited the Uighur website Orkhun. Erkin Sidick, a U.S.-based Uighur scholar, told CPJ that the editor’s whereabouts had been unknown from the time of the rioting until news of the conviction surfaced in 2011. Hezim was sentenced to seven years in prison on undisclosed charges in a trial closed to observers, according to Sidick, who learned the news by telephone from sources in Aksu, the district he comes from. Hezim’s family was informed of the sentence but not of the charges against him, Sidick said. Chinese authorities frequently restrict information on sensitive trials, particularly those involving ethnic minorities, according to CPJ research.

Hezim’s whereabouts in late 2015 were unknown, according to the Uyghur Human Rights Project, a Uighur rights group based in Washington.