News / Asia

    Uighur Scholar Ilham Tohti Indicted for Separatism

    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.
    x
    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.

    Lawyers and family members of prominent Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti are strongly rejecting his indictment for separatism by a court in Xinjiang on Wednesday. Tohti is accused of inciting violence in the ethnically diverse region in western China, where the government is leading a campaign against terrorism. But supporters say he is a moderate man persecuted for his activism.

    Wednesday’s indictment came more than six months after Ilham Tohti was detained in Beijing, and taken to Urumqi, where he will now face trial.

    It came through a brief statement posted on the microblog account of the Urumqi People's Prosecutor.

    Tohti's lawyer Li Fangping said the government failed to notify him the case was being transferred to the court, and he also does not have access to the official indictment.

    “After he [Tohti] was detained the police wrote up a document," he said. "We are not clear whether the prosecution will use that document in its indictment. But Ilham Tohti and all of us lawyers believe that that the contents of that document does not constitute evidence of separatism.”

    The document Li refers to is a police report that accuses the academic of using his website - Uighur online - to promote violence, separatism and hatred between Han and Uighur people.

    The case has spurred criticism from the international community.  

    US concerns

    State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said she was concerned about the lack of transparency concerning Tohti's welfare and access to legal representation.

    "We call on Chinese authorities to release Mr. Tohti and his students and to guarantee them the protections and freedoms to which they are entitled under China’s international human rights commitments, including freedom of expression,” she said.

    For years the academic had been speaking out against what he said were failing government policies in Xinjiang.

    The region is home to a majority of Chinese Uighurs - a Turkish speaking ethnic group. Most Uighurs are Muslim and are culturally very different from Han Chinese.

    “At a time when the Chinese government is facing escalating tensions, that really should tell the government to reevaluate the policy in Xinjiang," said Maya Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch based in Hong Kong. "Instead of listening to what Uighurs have to say about why this might be happening and try to look at the root causes, the government is slapping a heavy charge on a moderate advocate of Uighurs."

    Over the past year, hundreds of people have been killed in attacks Beijing has blamed on terrorists who want the region to be independent."

    Violence escalates

    But activists say Uighurs are driven towards extreme acts because of government discrimination, and the repression of religious practices and other freedoms.

    In May, China launched a year-long campaign against terrorism in Xinjiang.

    Since then, hundreds of people have been detained and police forces have increased security in areas already heavily policed.

    But that has not stopped the violence.

    In the most recent incident, Chinese media this week said police shot dead dozens of attackers near Kashgar.

    The assailants had targeted government offices with knives and axes, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

    The government has not released a precise death toll, nor added details on who the assailants were.

    In his writings, Tohti has often talked about the danger that government repression in Xinjiang could lead to extreme acts, but he has also always rejected any involvement with terrorism.

    In a statement he gave to Radio Free Asia before his detainment, he said he never associated with a terrorist organization.

    “The path I have pursued all along is an honorable and a peaceful path,” he said and added he had relied only on pen and paper to diplomatically request the human rights, legal rights, and autonomous regional rights for the Uighurs.

    It is unclear when the trial will be held. Tohti's lawyer, Li Fangping says he will travel to Xinjiang next week and he will request to meet with Tohti.

    You May Like

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.