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Jan-19-2014 16:25printcomments

China: Detention of Uyghur Academic and Human Rights Defender Mr Ilham Tohti

Immediately and unconditionally release Ilham Tohti as he is being detained solely as a result of his legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights, and immediately reveal his whereabouts - William Nicholas Gomes

Mr Ilham Tohti
Mr Ilham Tohti

(WASHINGTON, DC) - According to a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, he was detained on suspicion of 'breaking the law'. Ilham Tohti has been consistently outspoken on Uyghur rights in China and critical of official policy in Xinjiang province, the homeland of China's Muslim Uyghur population. He has been detained numerous times previously as a result of his advocacy.

At around 2:00 p.m. on 15 January 2014, more than 20 police officers, reportedly from Xinjiang and Beijing, carried out a raid on the home of Ilham Tohti, who was in the apartment with his mother and two young sons at the time. Ilham Tohti's mother was also taken by police and was reportedly held until 10:30 that evening. The human rights defender's wife told reporters that at the time of the raid no reason was given to her for her husband's detention, and that computers and mobile phones were seized in the raid. His current whereabouts are unknown.

Ilham Tohti has regularly criticised Chinese government policy in Xinjiang province, arguing that the Uyghur population has been largely left out of its development. He has also been outspoken on the government's handling of unrest in the region, which has flared in recent years. He most recently questioned the official version of events following an attack in Tiananmen Square in October 2013 when a car ploughed into a group of people on a crowded footpath before going on fire. Two pedestrians were killed and 40 were injured.

The three Uyghur occupants of the car, who all died in the incident, were described by Beijing as Islamic militants. Ilham Tohti questioned the characterization, pointing out to international reporters that many Han Chinese had resorted to other extreme actions to “express their frustration to society” which had also resulted in the harming of innocent people.

Ilham Tohti has been subjected to regular surveillance, interrogation and periods of house arrest in Beijing as a result of his advocacy on Uyghur rights. In February 2013, Front Line Defenders reported that he was prevented from leaving China to take up a year long university position in the United States.

In October 2012 he was sent back to his home town in Xinjiang for the duration of the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. In 2010 he reported that he had been denied permission eight times to travel abroad to attend academic conferences. In 2006 Ilham Tohti set up the moderate Uyghur Online website to discuss social issues involving Uyghur-Han relations, in articles published both in Chinese and Uyghur.

Chinese authorities alleged this website played a role in instigating the violent unrest in Xinjiang province in 2009 which left up to 200 people dead. Following this the site was shut down and Ilham Tohti was questioned repeatedly by police who accused him of separatism. He now runs the Uyghur Biz website which is hosted overseas and is blocked in China. That website has been attacked in recent days and is currently inaccessible.


President Xi Jinping
The State Council General Office
2 Fuyoujie
Xichengqu
100017 Beijing
People's Republic of China

Your Excellency,

I am William Nicholas Gomes, Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com.

On 15 January 2014, Mr Ilham Tohti, an economics professor at the Central University for Nationalities in Beijing, was detained by police following a raid on his home that afternoon. According to a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, he was detained on suspicion of 'breaking the law'. Ilham Tohti has been consistently outspoken on Uyghur rights in China and critical of official policy in Xinjiang province, the homeland of China's Muslim Uyghur population. He has been detained numerous times previously as a result of his advocacy.

At around 2:00 p.m. on 15 January 2014, more than 20 police officers, reportedly from Xinjiang and Beijing, carried out a raid on the home of Ilham Tohti, who was in the apartment with his mother and two young sons at the time. Ilham Tohti's mother was also taken by police and was reportedly held until 10.30 that evening. The human rights defender's wife told reporters that at the time of the raid no reason was given to her for her husband's detention, and that computers and mobile phones were seized in the raid. His current whereabouts are unknown.

Ilham Tohti has regularly criticised Chinese government policy in Xinjiang province, arguing that the Uyghur population has been largely left out of its development. He has also been outspoken on the government's handling of unrest in the region, which has flared in recent years. He most recently questioned the official version of events following an attack in Tiananmen Square in October 2013 when a car ploughed into a group of people on a crowded footpath before going on fire. Two pedestrians were killed and 40 were injured. The three Uyghur occupants of the car, who all died in the incident, were described by Beijing as Islamic militants. Ilham Tohti questioned this characterization, pointing out to international reporters that many Han Chinese had resorted to other extreme actions to “express their frustration to society” which had also resulted in the harming of innocent people.

Ilham Tohti has been subjected to regular surveillance, interrogation and periods of house arrest in Beijing as a result of his advocacy on Uyghur rights. In February 2013, he was prevented from leaving China to take up a year long university position in the United States. In October 2012 he was sent back to his home town in Xinjiang for the duration of the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. In 2010 he reported that he had been denied permission eight times to travel abroad to attend academic conferences.

In 2006 Ilham Tohti set up the moderate Uyghur Online website to discuss social issues involving Uyghur-Han relations, in articles published both in Chinese and Uyghur. Chinese authorities alleged this website played a role in instigating the violent unrest in Xinjiang province in 2009 which left up to 200 people dead. Following this the site was shut down and Ilham Tohti was questioned repeatedly by police who accused him of separatism. He now runs the Uyghur Biz website which is hosted overseas and is blocked in China. That website has been attacked in recent days and is currently inaccessible.

I urge the authorities in China to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Ilham Tohti as he is being detained solely as a result of his legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights, and immediately reveal his whereabouts;
  2. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Ilham Tohti while in detention;
  3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in China are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

I respectfully remind you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. I would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (b and c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (b) As provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms; (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters,” and to Article 12 (2): “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”

Yours Sincerely,
William Nicholas Gomes
Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com
Twitter @wnicholasgomes
www.williamnicholasgomes.com

- See more at: http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/24684/action#sthash.mg4eeDOM.dpuf

________________________________________

______________________________

Salem-News.com Human Rights Ambassador William Nicholas Gomes is a Bangladeshi journalist, human rights activist. As an investigative journalist has written widely for leading European and Asian media outlets. William Gomes concentrates on humanity; his advocacy of human beings in dangerous, preventable circumstances does in fact lead to some of our most vital reports, because they give a voice to the voiceless.

William Gomes said, "I am against any form of intolerance alongside xenophobia and antisemitism. I am and will always stand strong in combating all forms of racial discrimination and intolerance any where." Read his letters and reports to see what the new generation of world journalists are doing to preserve human rights worldwide.

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