China sentences man to 7 years in jail for watching a film

By Ishaan Tharoor for the Washington Post

Authorities in the far western Chinese region of Xinjiang gave a seven-year prison sentence to an ethnic Uighur man for watching what reports claim was a politically "sensitive" film.

According to Radio Free Asia, officials claimed the man, identified as Eli Yasin, a resident of Chaghraq township in Aksu prefecture, had watched a film on Muslim migration and was possibly "planning to go abroad 'to wage jihad.'" Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim Turkic minority, are the majority population in Xinjiang and have long complained of discrimination and marginalization by the Chinese state.

Details about the specific film Yasin and his family members watched are unclear, but it led to his arrest last year. RFA, a private broadcaster funded in part by the U.S. government, spoke with a local official who conveyed the family's complaints:

Family circumstances argued against their having had such a plan, though, Hesen Eysa, security chief for Yasin’s Karasu village, told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
“All of them were over 40 years of age,” Eysa said. “They had a farm, and they were struggling to survive and provide for their children’s education."
“They showed no signs of opposing the government.  At least I never saw any signs of this,” he said.
“As a security chief, I am having a hard time explaining these charges to the people in my village.”
“None of this makes any sense. It is very unjust,” he said.

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