Canadian Journalist Briefly Detained in Xinjiang

Canadian journalist Nathan VanderKlippe, The Globe and Mail’s Beijing-based Asia correspondent, was detained in Elishku Township, Xinjiang on August 23 for over three hours. VanderKlippe in 2014 won an Amnesty International media award for his reporting on Uyghur repression and violence in Xinjiang amid an ongoing terror crackdown in the region. His came as foreign journalists in China are experiencing increased harassment, and as state security policies in Xinjiang continue to tighten. At The Globe and Mail, Ann Hui reports:

Mr. VanderKlippe arrived Wednesday evening in a small village in the Elishku township in province. He had been attempting to interview locals for less than 15 minutes when a police officer pulled up next to him on a motorcycle. Two more police officers soon followed, along with others who appeared to be government officials. He identified himself as a journalist, and was told to follow the men back to a local government office.

“At one point, I asked, ‘Am I free to go?’ And one person said ‘of course.’ But the other said, ‘let me check,’” Mr. VanderKlippe said. “It was pretty clear I was not free to go.”

At the office, the men demanded to search through his belongings, including a bag and camera. He initially pushed back, but eventually relented. “They said the regular rules don’t apply to them.”

The officials then demanded to look through his computer. Again, Mr. VanderKlippe pushed back, and this time the officials backed down. He was taken to a nearby restaurant for a small meal instead. But upon return to the office, they again demanded to see his computer – this time taking it away from him.

[…] Globe and Mail editor-in-chief David Walmsley called the harassment of the journalist “deeply disturbing.” […] [Source]

After being released, VanderKlippe tweeted:

Mark McKinnon, VanderKlippe’s predecessor for The Globe and Mail in China, was similarly expelled from Xinjiang in 2009.

 is the frontline of a controversial nationwide crackdown on terrorism that began in 2014. The campaign has been criticized by human rights advocates for targeting members of the Uyghur ethnic minority, which some observers see as further enflaming ethnic tensions. While China’s nationwide media controls have long been tighter in sensitive ethnic minority regions, since the ongoing campaign began authorities have enhanced their measures to control the media narrative on the region. are regularly barred from scenes of unrest and are closely monitored when there, giving official media outlets a near monopoly on coverage. Amid this tight control, information is often first reported by advocacy groups and foreign government-funded media organizations, whose reporters have also seen China-based family members harassed.

VanderKlippe has tweeted a few updates on the status of his seized laptop, and on the levels of security sensitivity in the region:

While brought to global attention recently by U.S. President Trump, the term “fake news” has long been employed by Chinese authorities to counter unfavorable coverage.

Among his tweets, VanderKlippe recommended that those concerned about reporting conditions in China follow the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (@fccchina)‘s regular updates. This week, FCC China tweeted two incident reports of and reporting assistants experiencing harassment while attempting to report:

In March, a BBC reporting team was attacked and forced to sign a confession during their efforts to cover a petitioner en route to Beijing ahead of this year’s top national political meetings. In April, an AFP reporter was detained in Changsha while trying to cover the scheduled (but postponed) subversion trial of a rights lawyer Xie Yang.

Read more about media conditions and control, foreign correspondents, and Xinjiang, via CDT.