International PEN is appalled by the 15-year prison sentence handed down to Uyghur journalist and editor Hailaite Niyazi (aka Hairat or Gheyret Niyaz) on July 23, 2010. Niyazi, who was arrested in October 2009, was convicted on state security charges for his reporting on the July 2009 riots in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). PEN calls for his immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory.

Background Information

According to PEN’s information, Hailaite Niyazi, freelance journalist and former editor of the web site Uighur Online ( was taken from his home in Tianshan District, Tacheng Prefecture, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), on October 1, 2009. It is believed that his arrest stems from critical interviews given to foreign media following the unrest which broke out in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, on July 5, 2009. The prosecution reportedly used essays written by Niyazi highlighting mounting ethnic tension in the region prior to the riots, as well as interviews he gave to Hong Kong media after the violence, as evidence. Niyazi was convicted by the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court on charges of "endangering state security" on July 23 , 2010. He is appealing the sentence. Niyazi is currently being detained in the Tianshan Detention Center in Urumqi.

Hailaite Niyazi, aged 51, is a former reporter and columnist for Xinjiang Economic Daily and Xinjiang Legal News. Until June 2009 he edited and managed, the web site owned by the academic, writer and Uyghur PEN member Iham Tohti, himself arrested in July 2009 and held for six weeks for allegedly "promoting separatism."

Three other Uyghur webmasters arrested in August 2009 were also reportedly given lengthy sentences in late July 2010 for material published on their Uyghur-language web sites following the July 2009 unrest. They are Dilshat Perhat, webmaster and owner of Diyarim; Nureli, webmaster of Salkin; and Nijat Azat, webmaster of Shabnam. The men were reportedly sentenced to five, three and ten years respectively for "endangering state security" in closed trials at the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court. All three web sites have been blocked.

On July 5, 2009, Uyghurs took to the streets of Urumqi to protest an incident in which a number of Uyghur workers in a toy factory in Guangdong province, southern China, were attacked by Han Chinese and killed. These protests led to violent clashes with Han Chinese in Urumqi that were violently suppressed by the authorities. The state news agency Xinhua reports that 156 Han Chinese have been killed and over 1000 wounded, although details and figures are impossible to verify. An estimated 1400 people are said to have been arrested.

Write A Letter

  • Protesting the imprisonment of Uyghur journalist and editor Hailaite Niyazi, as well as webmasters Dilshat Perhat, Nureli and Nijat Azat;
  • Calling for their immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory;
  • Seeking assurances of their well-being in prison.

Send Your Letter To

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

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

Please note that there are no fax numbers for the Chinese authorities. PEN recommends that you copy your appeal to the Chinese embassy in your country asking them to forward it and welcoming any comments.

Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN if sending appeals after September 30, 2010: ftw [at]