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A guard tower and barbed wire fences surround an internment facility in the Kunshan Industrial Park in Artux in western China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on Dec. 3, 2018.

Ng Han Guan/The Associated Press

The Globe and Mail’s Asia correspondent has been honoured with a press freedom award for his work covering China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority.

Nathan VanderKlippe shares the award with Sarah Cox, an investigative reporter with The Narwhal, for her coverage of British Columbia’s Site C hydroelectric project.

The award, announced Monday on UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day, is being given by the Ottawa-based advocacy group World Press Freedom Canada, or WPFC.

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“Risking detention, deportation or even imprisonment, VanderKlippe reported on forced labour camps where thousands of Uyghurs, a Muslim minority ethnic group, are being held. VanderKlippe evaded attempts to physically bar him from the area, and his photos and reporting helped document China’s controversial practices in Xinjiang,” the group said in releasing its decision.

The Globe and Mail's Nathan VanderKlippe and The Narwhal’s Sarah Cox share the 2021 Canada’s Press Freedom prize. Their articles highlight China’s use of forced labour camps, and B.C. government secrecy over the troubled Site C dam. May 3 is World Press Freedom Day.

Mr. VanderKlippe’s most recent reporting included an exclusive story detailing how Chinese authorities have loaded large numbers of Uyghur workers onto trains bound for factories thousands of kilometres away as part of a plan to assimilate Muslim minorities into mainstream Chinese culture and thin their populations in Xinjiang, the northwestern region that has been their home for centuries, an internally circulated research document shows.

The Globe obtained a report in March submitted to senior levels of the Chinese government that noted relocating Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minority groups to industrial workplaces “not only reduces Uyghur population density in Xinjiang, but also is an important method to influence, fuse and assimilate Uyghur minorities.”

In February, the House of Commons overwhelmingly endorsed a motion to recognize that China is committing genocide against its Muslim minority.

WPFC said in its news release that Ms. Cox has doggedly covered the Site C dam, and through her pursuit of documents through the Access to Information Act, she exposed major problems with the dam, which government officials had known about for a year but had not revealed to the public.

The two winners will be awarded $2,000 each.

The annual award recognizes Canadian media workers who produce “public-interest journalism while overcoming secrecy, intimidation, refusal to comply with freedom of information requests or other efforts to foil their work,” according to the organization.

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Journalists receiving citations of merit included the Toronto Star’s Kevin Donovan for his battles in court to obtain documents in high-profile criminal and civil cases, and to Calgary Herald reporters Meghan Potkins and Madeline Smith who used the city’s freedom of information system to uncover financial abuses by a city councillor.

Kim Bolan, of the Vancouver Sun, was honoured with a lifetime achievement award for her career covering wars, the Air India bombing of 1985, gangs and organized crime. While covering a murder trial in 2017, she learned she had been the subject of a murder plot, which she then reported on. Ms. Bolan was the original recipient of the press freedom award in 1999.

“Despite the stresses of lockdowns and working remotely, Canadian journalists produced extraordinary journalism in 2020 that held to account those in power,” WPFC president Shawn McCarthy said.

“Our winners overcame significant hurdles that were thrown up to prevent their stories from coming to light.”

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