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  • Incident Reports | 14 September, 2015 (00:36)

    July 2015 Aksu City, Xinjiang Stuart Leavenworth, McClatchy News Service

    July 2015
    Aksu City, Xinjiang
    Stuart Leavenworth, McClatchy News Service

    I was working on a story about ethnic divides in Xinjiang, by following groups of young men who are part of local parkour clubs. Parkour is a kind of urban acrobatics that has become popular worldwide, including in Xinjiang. We had no police interference or minders after checking into a hotel in Urumqi. We had a successful two days of reporting there.

    We flew into Aksu in the morning, did reporting outside of town with no interference. After checking into Aksu International Hotel at about 7 pm, we went to our rooms. Thirty minutes later, when we attempted to leave hotel, we were stopped by a
man in plainclothes who would not provide his ID. I insisted he show an ID, whereupon he summoned a woman in uniform, who showed me her ID. She was Wang Li, of the Exit & Entry bureau, number 140780. There appeared to be at least five other plainclothes cops or minders of some kind. They asked what I was doing there, the usual. We sat in the lobby maybe 20 minutes and they said we could go. Later, when my assistant went back to the lobby, she was stopped by Wang Li and interrogated. My assistant said she said stuff like, “You are Chinese. Why are you working with foreign media here? You know they only look at things through colored glasses.” That night, we had been invited to eat dinner at the home of a Uighur family. I was concerned we might get them in trouble if we were followed to their house. So my assistant and I tested how closely we were being followed, but going outside, splitting up and then keeping track of our minders. From what I could tell, they had two people on each of us, talking on cell phones the whole time and being pretty obvious about following us. I decided to call off the dinner and had my assistant let our hosts know we could not join them. We stayed in Aksu another day and we were followed the whole time, although our minders did not follow us into restaurants and shops we visited.