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Uyghur residents walk past armed Chinese policemen standing guard in a street of Yecheng in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (photo/csmonitor)
By Christine Ford
Radio Free Asia (RFA) journalist Shohret Hoshur, an ethnic Uighur now living in the U.S. has been a thorn in the side of the CCP with his critical coverage of events in Xinjiang.
To intensify the pressure on him, the Chinese government have increased harassment of his family living in China, and have recently imprisoned his three brothers on trumped-up charges. Hoshur, now a U.S. citizen who is based in Washington, says this is another ploy in an attempt to remove him from broadcasting for RFA.
Chinese media have not reported on the case, but according to Hoshur’s family, they were told by police one brother has been sentenced to five years in prison for endangering state security, the other two detained for “leaking state secrets,” apparently this charge came after a phone call to Hoshur regarding the first brothers trial.
Hoshur denies the charges against his brothers. “All three of my brothers are hard-working, upstanding members of their community, with little if any interest in politics or social issues,” he said. “As farmers and merchants, they have been dedicated to supporting and providing for their families.”
According to RFA the men were arrested due to Hoshur’s “breaking news coverage” Xinjiang events, where the brothers reside. The family have had no contact with them since.
Washington state department spokesperson Jen Psaki spoke at a press briefing, stressing the need to uphold human rights and freedom of speech. “We urge Chinese authorities to cease harassment of his family and to treat them fairly and with dignity.”
Hoshur, who has received numerous awards for his coverage of events in Xinjiang since the deadly Urumqi riots in 2009, says he won’t bow to this latest pressure. The threats began after his report on a Uighur victim’s torture during the riots, but had intensified over the last few months.
“In my personal experience, the Chinese authorities could intensify their pressure after you start obeying them,” he said.
“If I leave from my job, this method can be used widely among Uyghurs abroad as a successful tactic. I don’t want to be made an example of, obeying an authoritarian regime’s unacceptable demand.”
RFA is an organization established by Congress in 1994 to allow broadcast of news in Asian countries where governments do not allow a free press. RFA continues to be funded by an annual grant from the U.S. government’s Broadcasting Board of Governors.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is hoping for international coverage of the plight of Hoshur’s three brothers. They have labelled it a “long-distance tactic to suppress Uighur coverage.”
China holds the unsavoury world record of the most journalists jailed, with 44 last year.
Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti, a moderate, was sentenced to life imprisonment four months ago for “advocating separatism” and allegedly voicing support for terrorism, this move was condemned by the White House as the persecution of a peaceful dissenter.
First published in TheTuidangMovement
Shohret Hoshur, Washington-based reporter for Radio Free Asia. According to a RFA statement, the harassment of Hoshur’s family started in 2009 after he reported on a Uighur torture victim, but threats from officials had accelerated in recent months. (Smith Augustin Jr. /Radio Free Asia/Courtesy)