It is common for tyrants to claim that human rights are an “internal matter” and should not concern outsiders. That’s how China’s leaders have responded for decades when called out for their abysmal record on human rights. Yet Beijing is increasingly exporting its repression of critical or even independent voices to other countries.

China is attempting to punish the ethnic Uighur journalist Shohret Hoshur of the U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia by imprisoning his three brothers in China. Hoshur left China in 1994 after he ran into trouble with the authorities because of his reporting.

He’s since become a U.S. citizen, and his work has provided a window on events in the province of Xinjiang, beset with a violent conflict that China blames on Uighur separatists.

One of Hoshur’s brothers was sentenced to five years in prison last year on charges of violating state security laws. Two other brothers have been detained since August after discussing the trial in a phone conversation. Now relatives have been told that both detained brothers are about to be formally charged with leaking state secrets.

Hoshur says his brothers are farmers and merchants and are not involved in politics. They are being punished simply to hurt Hoshur.

The U.S. should declare, loudly and publicly, that such brazen intimidation is reprehensible. The brothers of Hoshur should be freed. When China persecutes a journalist living in the United States, it is no longer an “internal matter.”

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