China imprisons Uyghur activists for alleged links to US journalist

ughyur activist jailed
Representative Image of Uyghur Activists

Several Uyghur activists and former colleagues of an exiled journalist have been convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms by Chinese authorities in the Xinjiang region. The convictions appear to be linked to their association with Kasim Kashgar, a Washington-based reporter for Voice of America (VOA).

According to Kashgar, he learned in May that his former colleagues Mirkamil Ahmed, Semet Ababekri, Abdukadir Rozi, Mehmut Abdukeyum, and Akber Osman were convicted and handed sentences ranging from at least seven years to an unspecified term. The exact charges and details of the convictions remain unclear, as Chinese authorities have not publicly disclosed the information.

“Their ‘mistake’ was their past proximity to someone now affiliated with a US news agency covering Uyghur-related news”, Kashgar said, expressing concern over the apparent targeting of individuals with connections to him.

Kashgar, who covers Uyghur human rights issues for VOA, had previously worked with the convicted individuals at a language school in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. He fled China in 2017 and joined VOA in 2019, fearing persecution for his reporting on the Uyghur minority’s plight.

Reportedly, the convicts were accused of being members of the World Uyghur Congress, a prominent Uyghur rights organization. However, Kashgar has denied any involvement with the group beyond conducting interviews for VOA’s coverage.

The convictions have sparked outrage among human rights organizations and press freedom advocates, who condemn the Chinese government’s crackdown on Uyghur journalists and activists. The sentences are part of a broader campaign to silence dissent and suppress reporting on the human rights abuses against the Uyghur population in Xinjiang.

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