30 October 2009

Uyghur Journalist Heyrat Niyaz Reportedly Detained on State Security Charges

Over the past week there have been an increasing number of reports that Uyghur journalist Heyrat Niyaz (海来特·尼亚孜 or 海莱提·尼亚孜) has been detained by Chinese police on state security charges. According to the most recent report I've seen:
Heyrat Niyaz, age 50, well-known Uyghur journalist and former senior reporter for the Xinjiang Economic News, was taken by police from his home in Urumchi on 1 October. One 4 October, his family received a detention notice specifying that the cause of his arrest was "endangering state security." Police also said that it was because Heyrat gave several interviews following the 5 July Urumchi incident. He is currently being held in Urumchi's Tianshan Detention Center.
Most notably, Heyrat Niyaz gave an interview to the Hong Kong-based news magazine Yazhou Zhoukan in July, which I previously translated here, in which he claimed to have warned local officials that trouble was brewing and that the riots appeared to have been a premeditated effort coordinated by Hizb-ut-Tahrir al Islami (Islamic Liberation Party).

"Endangering state security" is not a specific crime; under Chinese law, it refers to a group of specific crimes under Articles 102–113 of the criminal code. Police are supposed to indicate a specific crime when they issue a detention notice, but it's not unusual for them to be vague like this in state security cases.

Given the circumstances, it seems most likely that Heyrat Niyaz is being investigated on suspicion of "illegally providing state secrets or intelligence to overseas entities" (为境外非法提供国家秘密、情报罪) in violation of Article 111 of the criminal code. It's a crime that, under serious circumstances, carries the death penalty, but I wouldn't expect that to be under consideration in this case.

Article 111 has been frequently used in past years to punish individuals who provided foreign media or organizations with information about ethnic unrest. A few examples:
  • Rebiya Kadeer was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2000 for sending newspaper clippings to her husband, who was living in the United States.
  • In 2003, Abdulghani Memetimin was sentenced to nine years in prison for providing newspaper clippings and other information to an overseas Uyghur organization.
  • In 2008, Ekberjan Jamal was sentenced to 10 years for transmitting audio of a protest to friends overseas, who then gave it to Radio Free Asia.
  • Also last year, Tibetans Phuntsog Dorje, Sonam Drakpa, Sonam Tseten, Sonam Yarphel, Tsewang Dorje, and Yeshe Choedron were sentenced to 9–15 years in prison for providing information about the riots and protests in Lhasa and elsewhere that began in March 2008.
It thus appears that Heyrat Niyaz may be facing serious prison time for revealing details about the 5 July riots that weren't part of the official narrative of events. Given the attention that was given to the interview in question (I doubt anything I have ever done has been read by so many people), his fate deserves our continued attention.

No comments:

Post a Comment