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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countriesi
X
December 16, 2014 2:14 PM
Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.
Video

Video Indonesian Province to Expand Sharia Law

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and a legal system based on Dutch civil law and Indonesian government regulations. But in a 2001 compromise with separatists, Aceh province in Sumatra island’s north was allowed to implement Sharia law. Since then, religious justice has become increasingly strict. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh.
Video

Video Some Russian Businesses Thrive in Poor Economy

Capital flight, the fall in oil prices and Western sanctions are pushing Russia's staggering economy into recession. But not companies are suffering. The ruble’s drop in value has benefited exporters as well as businesses targeting increasingly frugal customers. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

All About America

AppleAndroid