Newspaper article International New York Times

Advocate for Uighurs Is Accused in China ; Intellectual, Detained on Jan. 15, Is Likely to Face Separatism Charges

Newspaper article International New York Times

Advocate for Uighurs Is Accused in China ; Intellectual, Detained on Jan. 15, Is Likely to Face Separatism Charges

Article excerpt

Also accused of inciting ethnic violence, Ilham Tohti, an economics professor in Beijing, could face a long prison term.

In an ominous sign of the fate awaiting one of China's best- known Uighur intellectuals, security officials in the far-western region of Xinjiang issued a statement over the weekend accusing him of separatism and inciting ethnic hatred.

The statement, issued on Saturday, provides the first concrete indication that the scholar, Ilham Tohti, an economics professor in Beijing, could face a long prison term for his advocacy on behalf of Uighurs, the Turkic-speaking Muslim minority whose uneasy coexistence with the Chinese authorities has grown increasingly violent.

Mr. Tohti has been held incommunicado since Jan. 15, when police officers escorted him from his apartment on the campus of Minzu University of China.

The news that he is likely to face charges of separatism comes at a time of intensifying bloodshed in Xinjiang despite a growing security presence by Chinese soldiers and paramilitary police officers. On Friday, 12 people were reported killed in a town not far from Xinjiang's border with Kyrgyzstan in what officials say was a clash involving explosive devices. A state-run news portal said that the police had shot and killed six people in Aksu Prefecture and that six others had died in what were described as three explosions. The accounts provided scant details.

Mr. Tohti's detention coincides with a broad assault on dissent by the new leadership under President Xi Jinping, who became the Communist Party's secretary in November 2012.

Last week, the authorities put on trial a respected legal scholar, Xu Zhiyong, who helped create a grass-roots civic organization devoted to fighting social injustice and official corruption. He was sentenced on Sunday to four years in prison.

A vocal advocate for China's Uighur minority, Mr. Tohti, 44, was the rare public figure willing to speak to the foreign news media about Beijing's policies in the vast region that borders several Central Asian countries. …

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