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article imageForeign Journalists Held in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Province

By Christopher Szabo     Jul 15, 2009 in World
Authorities in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have detained a number of foreign journalists covering the unrest there. Reports also say information reaching Xinjiang is being blocked by the Communist Party government.
A number of news websites report that China has also been highly selective about what journalists are allowed to cover and those who do not cooperate are detained and deported — usually after signing a “self criticism” statement.
The Beijing-based Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) received reports that security forces had “detained TV crews and other reporters,” and had confiscated or damaged equipment and interfered with interviews. However, the FCCC did stress that Chinese police were protecting reporters from angry mobs.
Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) also known as Reporters Without Borders, said in a statement that appeared to contradict the FCCC statement that reporters were at risk from Han Chinese vigilantes in cities like the Xinjiang Uyghur capital, Urumqi.
RSF also condemned the blocking of online information about the situation in Urumqi, citing more than 50 Internet forums that had been closed by authorities. RSF said in a statement:
Once again, the Chinese government has chosen to cut communications in order to prevent the free flow of information. We firmly condemn this behaviour, which is a serious violation of Uyghur freedom of expression and an unacceptable act of discrimination.
And the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on the Chinese government to halt the detentions. The New York-based CPJ said:
Chinese police should halt the detentions of journalists reporting on ethnic violence in Xinjiang and reveal the whereabouts of an Uyghur academic and Internet commentator who is missing and reportedly detained in Beijing.
The academic is the well-known ethnic Uyghur economist Ilham Tohti, a professor at the Beijing Minzu University of China, also called the Central University for Nationalities who disappeared last week. He was able to tell a friend he had received a notice of detention before his apparent disappearance.
Meanwhile, prominent Chinese academics have signed a petition for his release. He is said to be the most prominent person yet to be detained in connection with the Uyghur unrest in Xinjiag.
Reports indicate that the situation in Xinjiang is peaceful on the surface, with large numbers of Chinese security forces deployed in major centres and most communications cut.
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