What Internet? For 20 million in China, email, international calls cut off for 6 months

Originally Published by Canadian Press, 19 January 2010

LIUYUAN, China — They arrive at this gritty desert crossroads weary from a 13-hour train ride but determined. The promised land lies just across the railway station plaza: a large, white sign that says “Easy Connection Internet Cafe.”

The visitors are Internet refugees from China’s western Xinjiang region, whose 20 million people been without links to the outside world since the government blocked virtually all online access, text messages and international phone calls after ethnic riots in July. It’s the largest and longest such blackout in the world, observers say.

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China allows texting in Xinjiang six months after riots

Originally Published by BBC, 18 January 2010

Text messaging services have resumed in the Chinese region of Xinjiang, six months after deadly ethnic unrest that left nearly 200 people dead.

Services were being restored gradually, according to an official quoted by China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.

People were stopped from sending text messages last July following riots and demonstrations in Xinjiang.

The authorities said this was done to maintain social order between ethnic Uighurs and Han Chinese people.

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Guantanamo Uighurs start new life in Palau

Originally Published by BBC, 14 January 2010

At 0300 on 1 November 2009, the roar of a C17 US military transport plane shattered the silence at an airport in Palau, its landing lights off, invisible against the night sky.

Waiting anxiously on the tarmac was Johnson Toribiong, president of the tiny Pacific island state with a population of just 20,000 people.

Six more residents were about to be added. All of them were Muslim Uighurs from western China, who 20 hours earlier had been detainees at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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Bern to consult Jura before Uighur decision

Originally Published by World Radio Switzerland, 14 January 2010

The Swiss government says it won’t make a final decision on whether to take in two Uighur brothers who’ve been held at Guantanamo Bay until it’s heard from the canton of Jura, where the two men would ultimately be heading.

The Cabinet’s comments come amid deep divisions in parliament over the issue.

Some MPs have warned that accepting the two men would threaten national security and relations with China.

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China Nearly Doubles Security Budget for Xinjiang

Originally Published by New York Times, 13 January 2010

BEIJING — The government of the vast western region of Xinjiang, which last July was rocked by China’s deadliest ethnic violence in decades, is almost doubling its security budget this year compared with 2009, according to a report on Wednesday in China Daily, an official English-language newspaper.

The move is an indication of how deeply worried Chinese officials are that members of the Uighur and Han ethnic groups could clash again in the cities and desert oasis towns of the oil-rich region, and of the extraordinary measures the officials are taking to clamp down on the area.

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Parliament divided over Uighur situation

Originally Published by World Radio Switzerland, 13 January 2010

There are continuing divisions this morning in parliament over whether Switzerland should take in two Guantanamo detainees, minority Uighurs from China.

Two parliamentary committees have issued opposing appeals to influence the cabinet on the matter.

Members of parliament’s committee on human rights published a letter earlier this week, urging the federal cabinet to stick to their decision to house the two men. They also criticize China for what they describe as a ‘campaign to denigrate’ the Guantanamo detainees.

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Freedom in the World 2010 Survey Release

Ogiginally Published by The Freedom House, 12 January 2010

On January 12, Freedom House released its findings from the latest edition of Freedom in the World, the annual survey of global political rights and civil liberties. According to the survey’s findings, 2009 marked the fourth consecutive year in which global freedom suffered a decline—the longest consecutive period of setbacks for freedom in the nearly 40-year history of the report. These declines were most pronounced in Sub-Saharan Africa, although they also occurred in most other regions of the world. Furthermore, the erosion in freedom took place during a year marked by intensified repression against human rights defenders and democracy activists by many of the world’s most powerful authoritarian regimes, including Russia and China.

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Uighur man stabbed to death in south China: report

Originally Published by Washington Post, January 8, 2010

HONG KONG (Reuters) – A Uighur man was stabbed to death in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, a sign of lingering tensions after a factory brawl last summer sparked bloody ethnic riots in Xinjiang, a newspaper said on Saturday.

Energy-rich Xinjiang, homeland to the Muslim Uighur people and strategically located in central Asia, has been struck in recent years by bombings, attacks and riots blamed by Beijing on Uighur separatists demanding an independent “East Turkistan”.

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