During a reporting trip to Xinjiang, the Muslim Uighur region in China’s far west, reporter Brice Pedroletti of France’s Le Monde newspaper was followed and searched, and his sources were intimidated.
Pedroletti visited the apartment of the daughter of exiled human rights advocate Rebiya Kadeer. The family told him it was not “convenient” to talk. Two days later three plainclothes officers took Pedroletti to a backroom at his hotel and interrgated him for 45 minutes before he rushed off to catch a flight.
He was frequently followed during his seven-day trip to Kashgar and surrounding counties, where he was investigating claims of abuses of teenage Uighur girls sent to work in factories in eastern China. One source told Pedroletti he was questioned for two hours the day after speaking to the foreign reporter in his shop. Pedroletti said a family he visited was questioned after he left by men in a car that was shadowing him. Before crossing the Kyrgyzstan border police searched Pedroletti’s bag and examined his photographs.
“The constant surveillance prevented me from hiring a good interpreter and freely reporting,” said Pedroletti. “Sources were scared to talk to me, and I did not want to put them in danger.”