10/03/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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In Xinjiang it is a crime to even talk of separatism

A law is approved that punishes those who discuss it on the internet. Three months after the protests, Urumqi remains occupied by police and subjected to tight controls.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The government of Xinjiang last week approved a law that punishes as a crime mere talk of separatism on the internet.

According to the government, the "Information Promotion Bill" aims to prevent the Internet from being used to foment ethnic separatism or disrupt social stability. Now internet cafes are under police surveillance, with officers ready to arrest those who dare to even discusses the ethnic protests that erupted in Urumqi on July 5, in which there were 197 deaths. During the fighting and in the following weeks, the authorities blocked all communication with the area via internet or phone and even blocked access to global sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

 

Local sources report that many mobile phones used in the region have received polite text messages in recent weeks, probably for having sent messages containing words "forbidden" by the government.

The police also prohibit pictures and videos of the July protests from being taken out of the region arresting those who are caught with them in their possession. Footage of the violence is still circulating on sites like YouTube, posted by Uyghurs in exile.

The engineer Pu Fei commented to RadioFreeAsia that he is pessimistic about "freedom of speech in the country”.  “Until now, the law had only banned the use of certain words" and had criticized the use on the internet, but this is the first time that the mere use of certain terms or discussion of certain topics is considered in itself a crime.

 

Youjin Wang, a Chinese University professor of political science and law, notes that China is deals severely with every "subversive" action but the term is generic and authorities can apply it to literally all forms of protest and dissent.

The danger is that, for security reasons, the authorities will keep Uyghur population in isolation.

After more than two months, the situation remains tense. Over the last months unidentified persons "stabbed” with syringes hundreds of citizens, causing panic. Now the police stop and search anyone who has a purse, especially at night, looking for syringes. Local sources report that these continuous checks, rather than intimidate attackers, exacerbate the population.

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