An ethnic Uighur website editor was sentenced to seven years in prison in China after a secret trial, Amnesty International said March 7. Tursunjan Hezim, a 38-year-old former history teacher, was reportedly detained shortly after the July 2009 protests in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Tursanjan Hezim ran a popular Uighur-language website, Orkhun, which covered local history and culture until it was shut down shortly after the protests. His family was never informed of the charges against him and his whereabouts remain unknown. The government has not publicly stated the grounds for his detention. (Amnesty International, March 7)
Uighur advocacy groups overseas last month criticized the death sentences handed down for four men, all apparently ethnic Uighurs, in three separate incidents of violence. Two of the men were convicted in connection with a bombing attack that killed at least seven people Aksu last August. A third was convicted of killing a police officer in Khotan in November. The fourth man was found guilty of killing two people in Hami region late last year.
“By sentencing these four Uighurs to death, China is attempting to intimidate the Uighur people, fearing that they will take to the streets to demand human rights, democracy and freedoms from the authoritarian Chinese government,” said Uighur exile leader Rebiya Kadeer. (RTTNews, NYT, Feb. 24)
Last month, Internet calls for “Jasmine” protests in China, inspired by the Arab protest movements, were headed off by pre-emptive detainments of suspected leaders in Beijing, although small protests were held in Hong Kong calling for a democratic transition in the People’s Republic. An Internet call was issued at the last minute for protesters to gather in Beijing’s Wangfujing shopping district Feb. 19, although those who showed up were overwhelmingly police agents. But Internet calls have persisted, leading authorities to both carry out more pre-emptive arrests and issue statements denouncing the campaign. (The Independent, March 7; CNN, Feb. 20)