02/26/2014, 00.00
CHINA
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China, Uyghur professor charged with "inciting separatism"

The Chinese government has formalized the charges against Ilham Tohti, an economics professor and well-known ethnic Uyghur activist for the rights of minorities living in China, who was arrested in January. Place of detention unknown. Human rights groups urge international community to intervene.

Beijing ( AsiaNews / Agencies) - More than a month after his arrest, the Chinese authorities have formalized the charges against Ilham Tohti, an economics professor and well-known ethnic Uyghur activist for the rights of minorities living in China. His wife Guzaili Nu'er confirms that the academic has been accused of "inciting separatism" and points out that at the moment "it is not possible to know" where her husband is being held prisoner. Overseas Uyghur groups have condemned the decision and called on the international community to intervene for Tohti's release.

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.

Dilshat Rexit, spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress led by well-known activist Rebiya Kadeer, said: "China's accusations of separatism are merely an excuse for suppression of those with different political opinions. We call on the international community to monitor China and free this Uyghur scholar". Both the U.S. and the European Union condemned the Chinese government following his arrest.

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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