UAA Urges China to Disclose Identities in Latest Round of Administrative Detentions for “Spreading Rumors” in East Turkestan

For immediate Release
July 24, 2013, 4:45 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 478 1920

A new report from Chinese state media’s English-language Global Times yesterday states that 72 people were sentenced to administrative detention for spreading rumors online in a little over two weeks between June 28 and July 15, 2013 following the recent incident in Lukchun and the subsequent media blackout. The report states that during this period, 199 people were punished for disseminating 802 rumors, mainly migrant workers, unemployed people and students.

The Global Times cites a report in Chinese-language Xinjiang Daily, which says the majority of the rumors have to do with terrorism and describes 3 specific cases:

  • A July 9 post on the Tencent microblog spreading a rumor about a needle attack in Shehezi, posted by a high school student.
  • A July 6 post in a QQ chatroom spreading a rumor that nan bread in Urumqi was contaminated, posted by a 22-yearold female in Karamay.
  • A July 5 post on Tencent rumoring that terrorists were in Burqin County, posted by “Yuan Doe,” a 29-year-old migrant worker in Burqin County.

Another report in the regional Chinese-language Tianshan Net (translated in the Appendix) specifies that a certain portion of those spreading rumors were underage, and elaborates that rumors were spread through the QQ chat service, weibo microblogs, and microblog messaging networks. In the article, public security organs urge people to distinguish fact from fiction, and avoid spreading gossip.

In an unrelated case of China’s crackdown on Uyghurs for activities online, Radio Free Asia reported Monday that a Uyghur student was detained at Beijing airport while en route to Turkey on July 15 for his involvement in the Uighurbiz website.

“China’s latest reports of widespread detentions for spreading information online relating to terrorism after the recent incident in Lukchun reflects China’s tightening stranglehold on information. China has failed to deliver sufficient explanation of recent incidents both to its public and outside observers,” said Alim Seytoff, President of the Uyghur American Association in a statement from Washington, DC.

“State media should disclose more information about the individuals who have been sentenced, and disaggregate information on their ethnicities and specific sentences. It is not surprising that in China’s information-starved climate, in which even state media reports contain scant and contradictory information, people are unsure what to believe.”

He also added, “The timing of these sentences, which occurs during the Holy Month of Ramadan that began on July 8, and four years after a major massacre in July 2009, reflects a trend to crack down on information in East Turkestan during sensitive periods. Four years ago, China pulled the plug on the Internet across East Turkestan for an astonishing ten months, and the latest wave of detentions is a continuation of heavy-handed internet policies in East Turkestan.”

This latest wave is not the first time Uyghurs and unidentified Internet users were arrested in East Turkestan for online activities in recent months. A June 30 Xinjiang Daily article described 19 cases involving rumors on QQ, weibo and SMS handled on June 26, 27, and 28 by public security organs in Urumchi and Aksu including an anonymous “Su Doe” and “Chen Doe.” On June 3, 2012 Tianshan Net reported that “Pamir Yasen” received 15 days of administrative detention on May 28, 2012 for spreading rumors on the Sina microblog.  On May 21, 2013 an anonymous “Gu Doe,” was sentenced to 5 days of administrative detention by the Urumqi Municipal Public Security bureau for fabricating rumors on QQ about a suicide bombing. Information about the case was released by Chinese state media with a group of cases of criminal sentences for Uyghurs, UHRP reported in June. Like the current cases, the ethnicity of internet users sentenced to administrative detention in most of these cases cannot be determined from the information released by Chinese state media. Only Pamir Yasen’s case involves a name that can be identified as Uyghur.

“Throttling Dissent,” a Freedom House report on online freedom in China released today, elaborates on China’s online crackdown. It describes a lack of due process for at least twenty individuals in East Turkestan in an incident in March 2013 who “’used the Internet, mobile phones and digital storage devices to incite terrorism,’ local reports alleged, without elaborating.” UHRP condemned this sentence in a March 23 release.

Appendix: Article translation - In half a month, Xinjiang has handled 802 cases of rumors resulting in administrative detention of 72 people


Tianshan News 7/23/13 8:35am

Tianshan News (By Chen Zehua  and intern Zhou Long) Since the terrorist criminal case of serious violent rioting, in over half a month various versions of rumors have begun to spread on QQ, weibo microblogs, and microblog messaging networks. Recently Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region public security organs say that from June 28 to July 15, public security organs at all levels in Xinjiang handled 802 cases involving rumors, investigated and handled 199 people who disseminated rumors online, of whom 72 people received administrative detention according to the law.

A Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Public Security Organs official who is involved said that after the police analyzed the characteristics of the group spreading rumors online, the community spreading rumors are mostly unemployed and migrant workers, and minors and students also account for a certain portion.

Regarding types of rumors, the forwarding of information that is hearsay and gossip makes up 60 percent of cases; secondly, a portion of netizens use channels including QQ and weibo microblog messaging to distort the recent series of incidents, leading to forwarding messages with unconfirmed information, which has caused of virtual amplification of the rumors and led socially to a certain degree of panic; a portion of netizens have sent messages which are provocative and harm ethnic divisions, and their objective is to damage harmonious ethnic relations, destroy ethnic solidarity and seize the opportunity  to engage in sabotage.

Regarding the motivation for spreading rumors, many netizens have a poor ability to withstand pressure, and they cannot distinguish online rumors. Combined with the recent violent terrorist incidents in the area, this has already led to a spreading mood of online panic, and in this short period the social influence has still not been eliminated, thus frequently rumors have developed; there are also a portion of netizens who distribute rumors purely for personal goals, to intentionally concoct rumors of “riots” and “murder,” to air out a mood of discontent.

Facing false information online, how can one distinguish fact from fiction? In this regard, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region public security organs remind that we must improve own ability to differentiate and not just follow the crowd; secondly, regarding important information online, make sure to consider the source, if it’s just only posted online, this takes away from the credibility of the information.

Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region public security organs call on people of all nationalities not to listen to rumors, not to believe rumors, and not to spread rumors. Public security organs will deal strictly with acts involving the use of mobile phones and the Internet to spread fabricated rumors, seriously disrupt social order, affect social stability and endanger social security.