In an effort to crack down on what remains of the free press in the dissident Xinjiang province, the Chinese government has imprisoned three brothers of Radio Free Asia reporter (RFA) Shohret Hoshur, according to the Washington Post.
Hoshur, an ethnic Uighur, fled China in 1994 — fearing reprisal from authorities as a result of his coverage of happenings within the province. The Washington-based journalist, now a U.S. citizen, once again faces intimidation tactics by Chinese officials, as harassment of the Hoshur family intensified in 2009 following his reports on Uighur torture victims. Last year, one of his brothers was hit with a five-year imprisonment sentence “for violating state security laws,” while most recently, his two other brothers were detained for “allegedly leaking state secrets.”
The U.S.-government funded RFA believes that his brothers were targeted due to “his breaking news coverage” of the events taking place in Xinjiang. RFA’s deputy director of programming, Jennifer Chou, released a statement on the detentions.
We have a pressing issue regarding the safety and well-being of several family members of Radio Free Asia Uighur reporter Shohret Hoshur, a U.S. citizen who, we believe, has been targeted by Chinese authorities for his breaking news coverage of events in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Hoshur believes his three brothers have been wrongly arrested and charged as a means to intimidate and even silence him as a journalist reporting on sensitive issues in China.
Two of Hoshur’s brothers are being held for supposedly leaking state secrets after discussing the arrest and sentencing of his third brother in a telephone call with Hoshur. The family says Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region authorities have engaged in a pattern of intimidation and threats against them since 2009. Throughout this period authorities, police, and investigators seem to have used Hoshur’s coverage of sensitive issues as a journalist with Radio Free Asia as a justification for their harassment. Hoshur has even received phone calls from his family members asking him to leave his job at RFA, which he believes were made under pressure by authorities.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), China was the largest jailer of journalists this year — at 44. However, these numbers do not include cases such as this one, in which tactics of intimidation are used to put pressure on journalists indirectly.