Following confirmation from Xinjiang authorities, RFA reported on March 3 that RFA editor Eset Sulaiman’s brothers had been detained since 2018.
Ehet Sulaiman (57) and Ehmet Sulaiman (39) served as the director of the Tengritagh Township Teaching District and the deputy head of Kumul prefecture’s Gherbiytagh township, respectively, but local officials whom the brothers worked with told the US-funded news station that their positions had been replaced after they went missing that year.
At least five other relatives of Eset Sulaiman were also reported to be the subject of forced disappearances by the Chinese authorities since 2017, at around the same time that the Chinese government started large-scale and systematic incarceration campaigns in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in the name of combatting religious extremism and promoting vocational training.
At least 50 family members of RFA’s Uyghur Service staff have faced detention, according to the news station. The ‘intimidation schemes’ to silence journalists is typically aimed at journalists reporting outside China.
A US Congressional report published in December 2020 estimated that up to 1.8 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Hui had been arbitrarily detained by the Chinese authorities. Rights groups and international media reports shed light on the internment camps in the Xinjiang region, where inmates are subjected to rape, torture, forced labor, and political indoctrination.
The IFJ said, “Targeting journalists for their reporting through the detention of their family members is a serious violation of human rights. The IFJ is gravely concerned about the growing number of Uyghurs detained in the internment camps in XUAR, which shows China’s continual breach of its obligation to protect human rights as a member of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council and a signatory of the UN Genocide Convention."