August 11, 2010

His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032
P.R. China

Nur Bekri
Chairman of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Regional People’s Government
Xinjiang Weiwuer Zizhiqu Renmin Zhengfu
2 Zhongshanlu
Wulumuqishi 830041
Xinjiang Weiwuer Zizhiqu
P. R. China

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our serious concern regarding the sentences handed to Uighur journalist and editor Gheyret Niyaz (Ch: Hailaite Niyazi), and webmasters Dilshat Perhat, Nureli, and Nijat Azat.

According to our information, on July 23, 2010, Gheyret Niyaz, freelance journalist and former editor of the web site Uighur Online, was sentenced to 15 years in prison by the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court on charges of “endangering state security.” The charge is reportedly based on an interview he gave to the Hong Kong-based magazine Yazhou Zhoukan (Asia Weekly) on August 2, 2009, regarding the ethnic unrest in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, last July. He is appealing his sentence. Gheyret Niyaz was detained on October 1, 2009, and is still being held in Tianshan Detention Center in Urumqi.

Three other Uighur webmasters arrested in August 2009 were also reportedly convicted of “endangering state security” and given lengthy sentences by the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court in late July 2010 for material published on their Uighur-language web sites. In trials closed to the public, Dilshat Perhat, webmaster and owner of Diyarim, was sentenced to five years in prison; Nureli, webmaster of Salkin, was sentenced to three years in prison; and Nijat Azat, webmaster of Shabnam, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. All three web sites have since been blocked.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that Gheyret Niyaz, Dilshat Perhat, Nureli, and Nijat Azat have been sentenced solely for the peaceful expression of their views. We are extremely troubled that their convictions and the charges against them seem to be part of a targeted crackdown on freedom of expression in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, which is a violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory, as well as China’s own constitution. We therefore call for their immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all others detained in Xinjiang in violation of their right to freedom of expression.

Thank you for your attention to this serious matter.

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H. E. Mr. Zhou Wenzhong
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the U.S.
2201 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20007

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