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Ilham Tohti Arrest Draws International Condemnation

On January 15th, 2014, Chinese authorities arrested distinguished Uyghur scholar and activist Ilham Tohti without specific charges, drawing swift condemnation from the United States and European Union. The U.S. State Department lambasted the arrest as “part of a disturbing pattern of arrests and detentions of public interest lawyers, Internet activists, journalists, religious leaders and others who peacefully challenge official Chinese policies and actions.” EU Ambassador to China, Markus Ederer, criticized the “overall tightening of the human rights situation” and called for Mr. Tohti’s release “if [the] charges cannot be substantiated” under law.

Ilham Tohti, an economics professor who has taught at Beijing’s Minzu University, was a visible commentator on Uyghur-Han policy issues who often criticized the Chinese ruling regime’s actions in Xinjiang. Within China’s academic circles, Mr. Tohti and his nonviolent perspectives were viewed as the bridge between the Ugyhur and Han ethnicities. He hosted and frequently contributed to Uyghur Online, a website that discusses Uyghur issues.

Mr. Tohti’s arrest comes after the October 28th vehicular crash last year in Tiananmen Square, which prompted widespread fear of a renewed regime crackdown on Uyghur communities.

More than thirty officials ransacked Mr. Tohti’s home for two hours, later arresting and strip searching several of his students. Mr. Tohti’s mother, wife, and two young sons remain confined under house arrest. The Chinese regime has refused to divulge Mr. Tohti’s whereabouts and his current status is unknown.

Citizen Power for China (CPFC, aka Initiatives for China) calls for Mr. Tohti’s immediate release unless charges are substantiated while Mr. Tohti is protected by due process. Citizen Power for China also calls for Mr. Tohti’s right for family and lawyer visits. We are saddened that the regime’s history of ethnic suppression, including their crackdowns after the 2008 Tibetan Incident and the 2009 Urumqi Incident, have long caused devastating results and unrest. The unsubstantiated arrest of Mr. Tohti again demonstrates the regime’s ignorance of its past mistakes.

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