Writing for Bitter Winter is a crime in China. 45 of our reporters were arrested. 20 are still in custody but we don’t know where – actually, we cannot even confirm they are alive.
by Marco Respinti
From August to December 2018, 45 Bitter Winter’s contributors have been arrested in China for reporting the truth on religious persecution and the harsh harassment of ethnic minorities. Mainline media around the world have covered this blatant violation of human rights and freedom of the press.
Bitter Winter updated its readers on the fate of those 45 in February this year and again in June. A good half of them had been released, but kept under surveillance. The others remained in jail. One year after the arrests, it is now time for a new update.
20 out of 45 are still held in custody in China. 18 are incarcerated in Xinjiang, a vast territory that the CCP is transforming into an archipelago of detention facilities. Even citizens who are still not detained are systematically controlled through high-tech tools.
We have some new information on only one of those 18. He was transferred to a transformation through education camp in Hami city after one year of detention. Nothing is known of the remaining 17. Xinjiang is in fact an off-limits territory, as Bitter Winter readers know all too well, and obtaining information on those detained there is almost impossible.
We have news of one of the reporters who was released. He is one of the four people who were arrested last year in the Shanxi province, in the north of China. He has been subjected to more than six months in jail “on suspicion of illegally providing state secrets overseas,” which in the Orwellian language of the CCP means forwarding independent information to Western media. He was freed on bail as evidence against him was scarce. Now he is at home, but he is obliged to remain in his city and should be ready to report to the police on call 7/24.
The reporter who made it possible for Bitter Winter to publish the first and so far only video from inside one of dreadful transformation through education camps in Xinjiang was among the 45 arrested, and is still among those missing in action, who disappeared leaving no trace.
Hope always dies the last, but as time progresses, chances to obtain more information on those missing, or to see them coming back home, diminishes. This should concern and alarm all the friends of freedom of the press in the international community.