China’s crackdown on Uighurs spreads to even mild critics

Source: Associated Press

By GERRY SHIH

BEIJING (AP) — Zhang Haitao was a rare voice in China, a member of the ethnic Han majority who for years had criticized the government on social media for its treatment of the minority Muslim Uighurs.

Zhang’s wife had long feared some sort of backlash despite her husband’s relative obscurity. He was a working-class electronics salesman, unknown even to most Uighur activists. So she worried that authorities might block his social media accounts, or maybe detain him. Instead he was arrested and prosecuted for subversion and espionage. His punishment: 19 years in prison.

“They wanted to make an example of him, to scare anyone who might question what they do in the name of security,” Zhang’s wife, Li Aijie, told The Associated Press earlier this week, one day after she arrived in the United States and asked for political asylum. “Even someone who knows nothing about law would know that his punishment made no sense.”

Elsewhere in China, Zhang would have been sentenced to no more than three years, said his lawyer, Li Dunyong, and may not have been prosecuted at all.

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