PEN Protests Heavy Sentence Against Uighur Journalist Gheyret Niyaz
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York City, July 27, 2010—PEN American Center denounced the conviction of Uighur journalist Gheyret Niyaz on charges of “endangering state security” on July 24, 2010, for discussing the ethnic unrest in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in a magazine interview last year. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. This follows a series of arrests and heavy sentences against Uighur and Tibetan intellectuals and writers throughout the People’s Republic of China that appear aimed at controlling the flow of information in the autonomous regions of China.
Gheyret Niyaz (Chinese: Hailaite Niyazi), 51 years old, had worked for the Chinese state-run newspapers Xinjiang Legal News and Xinjiang Economic Daily, and was also the editor of the web site Uighur Online, owned by prominent economist and Uighur PEN Member Ilham Tohti. Niyaz was detained in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, on October 1, 2009, after giving an interview to the Hong Kong-based magazine Yazhou Zhoukan (Asia Weekly) on August 2, 2009, regarding the ethnic unrest there that July. He is reportedly being held at the Tianshan Detention Center in Urumqi, and has 15 days to appeal his 15-year sentence.
Niyaz’s sentencing follows a disturbing jump in the arrests of intellectuals in Uighur and Tibetan areas in China. Among them is Tagyal (pen name Shogdung), a Tibetan writer and intellectual arrested on April 23, 2010, after circulating an open letter criticizing the authorities on the handling of the April 14, 2010, Yushu earthquake. Like Gheyret Niyaz, Tagyal worked for a state institution, the Qinghai Nationalities Publishing House, and was targeted by Chinese authorities during the severe crackdown on freedom of expression and information following the March 2008 unrest in Tibet.
“Trying Gheyret Niyaz for ‘endangering state security’ for sharing his views on the situation in Xinjiang and sentencing him to 15 years in prison is an outrageous injustice clearly intended to intimidate other Uighur journalists,” said Larry Siems, director of the Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. “We call on the Chinese government to release him immediately and end the campaign of harassment, intimidation, and imprisonment of writers and intellectuals throughout China.”
PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center, which works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled, has been working to end China’s imprisonment, harassment, and surveillance of writers and journalists and curtail Internet censorship and other restrictions on the freedom to write in that country. For more information, please visit www.pen.org/china
Sarah Hoffman, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105
Larry Siems, (646) 359-0594