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China 10 September 2008

Young woman fired from Uyghur radio station, then arrested

Reporters Without Borders condemns the dismissal and arrest of Mehbube Ablesh, a member of the Uyghur community in the northwestern province of Xinjiang, who worked for Xinjiang People’s Radio Station, a government station based in the provincial capital of Urumqi.

After posting articles online criticising provincial leaders and Chinese government policy, she was fired from the station’s advertising department in August and was then arrested by the Urumqi police. According to one of her colleagues interviewed by Radio Free Asia, she is still being held.

“As in other provinces with pro-autonomy movements, there is even more censorship and police control in Xinjiang than the rest of China, especially during the month of Ramadan,” Reporters Without Borders said. “There is an urgent need for Uyghur journalists to be allowed to write and express themselves without fear of being arrested and convicted on trumped-up charges of calling for violence or threatening Chinese sovereignty.”

Nurmuhemmet Yasin, the author of the 2004 short story “Wild Pigeon,” was sentenced in February 2005 to 10 years in prison for inciting Uyghur separatism. Written in the first person, the story described a young pigeon that was put in a cage by humans and took its own life rather than sacrifice its freedom. The authorities claimed that it was about Yasin’s father, who poisoned himself in similar circumstances, and argued that it therefore contained a political message.

Korash Huseyin, an employee of the literary magazine that published the short story, was arrested in November 2005 and was sentenced to three years in prison by a south Xinjiang court. Ismail Tiliwaldi, the Uyghur governor of Xinjiang, said Yasin’s arrest was necessary to maintain stability in the region.

Abdulghani Memetemin, a Xinjiang-based writer, teacher and translator, was arrested on 26 July 2002 for providing information to the East Turkestan Information Centre (ETIC), an Uyghur rights and pro-independence group run by Uyghur exiles in Germany. A Kashgar court sentenced him to nine years in prison in June 2003 on a charge of “illegally providing state secrets to foreign organisations.”

Reporters Without Borders believes that all of these Uyghurs were unfairly convicted for expressing themselves publicly, and calls on the Chinese authorities to release them.

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