(Urumqi, Xinjiang—May 21, 2018) Police in China’s northwestern Xinjiang mass arrested people on charges of illegally using social media as part of an ongoing larger crackdown in the region.
According to the Xinjiang Internet Information Office, internet users from Karamay, Kashgar, Aksu, and Hotan were arrested for storing so-called “terrorist” files and circulating “terrorist” e-books and political rumors via the Chinese social media platform WeChat. Only some of the users were identified, using only their initials and ages or last names. 46 year-old A, 21 year-old K, 25 year-old M, 24 year-old A, and 26 year-old G are all of Uyghur descent. 48 year-old T was accused of circulating secret documents on WeChat and received a warning and an administratively penalty from the Communist Party. Chen, Gao, Wei, Liu, Fan, Zuo, and Xu were accused of spreading rumors about a blockade that occurred in Hotan and “instigating others to petition illegally.”
The government also warned that the internet remains under the jurisdiction of state laws, and those who advocate for terrorism, ethnic division, and extreme religious doctrines or circulate and store texts, images, audio, and video that undermine the stability of the country will be held responsible. In addition, they said those who publish tutorials about the manufacturing of explosives, guns, and other harmful appliances, as well as those who fabricate and spread news and rumors, images, audio, and videos will be punished.
However, the Chinese government often labels ordinary expressions of faith, such as the wearing of traditional Islamic clothing, as “terrorist” or “extremist” actions, and Xinjiang’s predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities have been arrested just for contacting loved ones outside of China, which the government sometimes considers a sign of religious extremism.
This targeting is not limited to Chinese citizens. Omirzak Mayra, a Kazakh woman who lived in Xinjiang, posted a video saying, “[My husband and I] immigrated to Kazakhstan from Altay Prefecture, Xinjiang. We are now Kazakhstan citizens. My husband, Serdek Janatbek, is now 52 years-old. He traveled to Altay, Xinjiang, on March 25, 2018, and the police detained him at a reformation center [Editor’s note: “Reformation centers” are part of an expanding network of prisons dedicated to profiling and arbitrarily detaining ethnic minorities for ‘re-education’ through propaganda and torture]. We can’t reach him by cell phone, and we have no idea when we’ll see him again. My health is getting worse, and I miss him everyday. I hope the government of Kazakhstan and international human rights organizations can help us reunite with him.”
Another woman, Kaysa Lazat, who came from Altay Prefecture, said, “I have immigrated to Kazakhstan. On Dec. 8, 2017, my parents-in-law traveled to China for medical treatment, and they have never returned. The police sent them to the reformation center as soon as they landed They weren’t able to go to the hospital. They are more than 70 years old now … They traveled to China simply for medical treatment … I hope that the Chinese government can leave them alone.”
ChinaAid exposes abuses, such as the ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, in order to stand in solidarity with the persecuted and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.
ChinaAid Media Team
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