Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act – What this means for freedom of the press and authors’ rights

Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act – What this means for freedom of the press and authors’ rights
Source: FT

The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019 outlines as one of its key points the freedom of journalists of the Uyghur language service of Radio Free Asia (RFA) – a United States government-funded, nonprofit international broadcasting corporation that broadcasts and publishes online news, information and commentary to readers and listeners in East Asia.

The Chinese government has reportedly made attempts to silence Uyghur journalists through the detention of their family members and relatives. One such journalist, Gulchehra Hoja, has had 24 of her family members arrested and she has been issued a “red notice” by Beijing due to her previous work in journalism.

Journalists are, however, not the only group of voices that are seemingly being silenced by the Chinese government. Uyghur authors have also been imprisoned for rather vague reasons. A prominent Uyghur historian, Iminjan Seydin, 54, who disappeared in 2017, has been detained in Xinjiang.

According to his US-based daughter, his detention may have stemmed from his published book, titled “Arabic Grammar.” Stressing the vagueness of his charge, Seydin’s daughter claims that her father’s book, which was deemed “controversial,” did not contain any “controversial” or religious material and only touched on Arabic language grammar. “I only learned about [his detention] in September [2019],..what I heard, they gave a book called ‘Arabic Grammar’ as the reason. It wasn’t even the Qur’an, it was just a book about Arabic grammar.”

However, according to RFA, a document titled “Notice on the Censuring of Iminjan Seydin,” issued by the Xinjiang Islamic Institute states that Seydin had been found guilty of inciting extremism. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, five years’ deprivation of political rights and a $71,000 fine. Reportedly, no evidence for the charges were presented in the notice.