A 30-year veteran editor is among more than a dozen staff members arrested after their Uyghur-run publishing house in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) released books deemed “problematic” because of improper political content, according to sources.
At least 14 staff members of Kashgar Publishing House in the XUAR’s Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi) city have been arrested since last year, a source with ties to the region recently told RFA’s Uyghur Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.
In addition to Kashgar Publishing House’s current deputy editor-in-chief and two former editors-in-chief, the source said that 60-year-old Memetjan Abliz Boriyar, who worked as a manager and editor at the company since 1987, was taken into custody in early October because he had approved the release of more than 100 books that were later blacklisted by the government.
The arrests are part of a “sweeping campaign” in the XUAR since the beginning of 2017 to censor literature based on political content, the source said, with sensitive books being categorized as “dangerous” or “problematic,” and anyone deemed responsible for publishing them targeted for detention.
Kashgar Publishing House office manager Zhao Li deferred questions about Boriyar to “the relevant departments” when contacted by RFA, saying he could not provide any information over the phone.
A security officer at the publisher said that he “had heard” Boriyar was taken into custody about two weeks earlier, but said he did not know where the editor is being held or any details about his case.
An officer at Kashgar’s Dong Hu district police station, which oversees Kashgar Publishing House, confirmed to RFA that Boriyar was taken into custody one morning in October by a “male police officer in his 40s,” but said he did not know the reason for his arrest.
While the officer did not provide Boriyar’s location, he said that the editor was not being held at a “political” re-education camp, where authorities have detained Uyghurs accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas throughout the XUAR since April 2017.
An official in Kashgar, who asked to remain unnamed, told RFA that Boriyar had submitted an application for retirement at the beginning of the year, but was refused “because he was under investigation for his responsibility for problematic books.”
The investigation had lasted for many months before his arrest “about a month ago,” the official added.
Besides working at Kashgar Publishing House, Boriyar was also involved in researching and systematizing Uyghur children’s literature, and had also published books about the Uyghur language.
Earlier this month, sources told RFA that the 14 arrested Kashgar Publishing House staff members include Ablajan Siyit, the publisher’s current deputy editor-in-chief, Osman Zunun, a former editor-in-chief who retired 10 years ago, and Abliz Omer, another former editor-in-chief who retired 20 years earlier, adding that they were detained on Oct. 15, “in the beginning of the year,” and “last year,” respectively.
A staff member at the local office of the judiciary in Kashgar told RFA that more than 600 books issued by Kashgar Publishing House had been listed as “problematic,” resulting in the arrests of their authors, editors, and those who greenlit their publication.
The investigation into “problematic” books began “two years ago,” he said, adding that books can be blacklisted even if they contain only one sentence that is “now restricted in use,” regardless of whether it was at the time of publishing.
Several prominent Uyghur intellectuals have gone missing from the XUAR in recent months and are believed detained in re-education camps, and sources in the exile community have said the trend shows that Chinese authorities are “committing cultural genocide by attempting to eliminate the best and brightest Uyghur minds.”
RFA has confirmed the arrests of Qurban Mahmut, the editor-in-chief of the Xinjiang Cultural Journal; Abdurahman Ebey, the head of the Xinjiang People’s Publication House; and the deputy editor-in-chief and three Uyghur directors of the Xinjiang Daily newspaper.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.