01/17/2014, 00.00

Beijing, Uyghur academic Ilham Tohti arrested without charges

Ilham Tohti, 45, is a professor of economics at Beijing University. About 30 public security officials entered his house, dragged him away and seized his computers and telephones. His wife: "Arrested in other circumstances, but it is different this time". The professor is known for his articles in defense of ethnicity, accused by the government of covering Islamic terrorism in China.

Beijing ( AsiaNews / Agencies) - A group of Chinese police have arrested Ilham Tohti, an ethnic Uyghur professor of economics at Beijing University. They dragged him away after raiding his house without making public the charges brought against him. During the raid, officials also seized computers, cell phones and even some papers written by his students. His wife, Guzaili Nu'er , reports that the police told her nothing. "This time it's different; they sent so many security officers, including police from Xinjiang, Beijing and the nearby police station," she said. "This time it is more serious".

Tohti, 45, was arrested on 15 January. The academic is famous for his public speeches in favor of the Uyghur cause. This ethnic group lives in the northern autonomous region of Xinjiang, is of the Turkish language and the Muslim faith, and denounces a strong linguistic, cultural and religious repression by the Chinese central government. Over the years there have been numerous violent clashes between the two sides: Beijing argues the region is home to Islamic extremists and separatists, while local activists pointing the finger at ethnic tensions caused by the Chinese control and "racist" policies in implemented by the central government.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei argues that the academic was arrested on the basis of "violations of the Criminal Code" : he is currently suspected of having carried out unidentified crimes and of having " violated the law ." The Tohti house is guarded around the clock by two plain clothes officers, who block anyone trying to enter. His wife recalls that the Professer had already been stopped several times , but always returned home for the night : "This time I do not even know where he is."

Several human rights activists argue that an article written by Tohti to contest the charges against the Uyghur minority after the attack on Tiananmen Square in October 2013 is behind the arrest: "Even on other occasions we have been referred to as perpetrators of serious acts, only to discover that we had nothing to do with them". The day before his arrest, he posted on his mobile social media account: "The Uygur people have become outsiders in the development of their own homeland and survival," It is here that the people's anger begins to grow. Uygur people need an avenue to express their aspirations and protect their rights".



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