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Chinese police take away outspoken Uighur activist

January 16, 2014

BEIJING (AP) — Police have taken away an outspoken scholar of China’s Turkic Uighur ethnic minority and raided his home, seizing computers, cellphones and even his students’ theses, his wife said Thursday.

About 30 police officers raided economics professor Ilham Tohti’s home in Beijing in a six-hour operation Wednesday afternoon after taking away the academic, his wife Guzaili Nu’er said in a phone interview.

It was the latest and most serious of recent actions by Chinese authorities in apparent retaliation for his criticism of the ruling Communist Party’s restrictive policies in his homeland in western China.

Guzaili Nu’er said that Ilham Tohti and his two sons were at home while she was at work when police arrived. She rushed home but her husband had already been taken away.

Beijing police did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment. Calls to Ilham Tohti’s mobile phone failed to connect.

Ilham Tohti has been barred from traveling and placed under house arrest numerous times in the wake of deadly ethnic rioting in the capital of the Uighur ethnic homeland of Xinjiang in 2009 that sparked a nationwide crackdown on Uighur activists.

He has not joined calls for Xinjiang’s independence but his outspokenness on problems with China’s ethnic policies has made him a target of the security services.

He is usually able to return at night after being taken away for questioning for several hours, whereas this time he did not come home, his wife said.

“This time it’s different. They sent so many security officers, including police from Xinjiang, Beijing and the nearby police station. This time it is more serious,” she said.

Guzaili Nu’er said police seized four computers, several mobile phones and Ilham Tohti’s students’ thesis papers, and refused to answer her questions about where he had been taken to, or why.

In recent weeks, Chinese authorities had been summoning Ilham Tohti’s students for questioning in what looked like an effort to collect evidence for further action against the academic, writer Huang Zhangjin, a close friend of Ilham Tohti’s, said by phone.


Associated Press videographer Isolda Morillo in Beijing contributed to this report.

Update hourly