News / Asia

Chinese Police Detain Prominent Uighur Activist

FILE - Outspoken Uighur scholar and advocate Ilham Tohti speaks during an interview at his home in Beijing.
FILE - Outspoken Uighur scholar and advocate Ilham Tohti speaks during an interview at his home in Beijing.
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VOA News
Chinese police have detained a university professor who is also an outspoken critic of Beijing's harsh policies against Uighur Muslims in far western China.

Ilham Tohti, an economics professor at the Central University for Nationalities in Beijing, was taken by police during a raid on his home Wednesday.

The information was passed on by Tohti's wife, Guzaili Nu'er, who said police also confiscated phones and computer equipment from the home.

"My husband, he did not do anything. He just wrote articles on stability in Xinjiang, nothing else. That is why I have no fear," said Nu'er.

China's Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that Tohti was detained "under suspicion of committing crimes and violating the law." It did not elaborate.

The 45-year-old told VOA in November that plain-clothes police rammed his car, took his phone, and threatened to kill him because of his comments to the media.

He regularly criticizes what he views as China's heavy-handed policies in the western Xinjiang region, where Beijing says it is fighting foreign-backed separatists.

Human rights groups and exiled Uighurs say China is exaggerating the threat in order to justify its repression of Muslim religious life.

Uighurs are a mostly Muslim Turkic ethnic minority group. They complain of government discrimination resulting from a large influx of majority Han Chinese to Xinjiang.

Beijing has blamed much of Xinjiang's recent unrest on what it calls Uighur terrorists affiliated with the banned East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). China claims the group receives training in neighboring Pakistan.

The U.S. State Department designated ETIM as a terrorist group following the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. China has warned the group has connections to al-Qaida and Osama Bin Laden.

Tohti, a Uighur himself, had questioned those links, telling VOA in 2011 that anyone "who thinks they can connect Osama bin Laden to the Uighurs should just shut their mouths if they are smart enough."

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