PEN International is seriously concerned for the well-being of Uyghur writer, academic, and Uyghur PEN member Ilham Tohti, who was formally charged with “separatism” on February 20, 2014, amid a crackdown on Chinese Uyghurs critical of the government. His wife received formal notification of the charges on February 25.

Tohti was arrested at his home on January 15, 2014, and remains detained incommunicado in an Urumqi detention center. His lawyer has yet to be granted access to his client. Three of Tohti’s students arrested around the same time have been formally charged with separatism and “revealing state secrets.” PEN believes that Tohti is being held for peacefully exercising his right to free expression, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

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Background Information

On January 15, 2014, Uyghur writer and academic Ilham Tohti was arrested by authorities at his home in Beijing. An official arrest warrant and notification of the charges presented to his wife on February 25 indicates that Tohti has been charged with separatism and is being held in an Urumqi detention center. His lawyer, Li Fangping, has yet to be allowed access to his client. In a public statement posted at the time of his arrest by the Bureau of Public Security for Urumqi it was alleged that Tohti had recruited followers through Uyghur Online, a website he founded in 2006. Tohti had reportedly expressed fears recently on Uyghur Online about increased pressure on Uyghurs following the Tiananmen Square car bomb attack in October 2013. Tohti's detention came shortly after the Communist Party of China launched a new “grand strategic plan” for the XUAR on December 19, 2013. This new plan pledged to make “maintaining social stability” the primary strategic goal within the XUAR.

Three of Tohti’s students arrested around the same time as Tohti have been formally charged while the whereabouts of a further two remain unknown. According to reports, Perhat Halmurat and Shohret Tursun were formally charged with separatism, while Abdukeyum Ablimit was charged with “revealing state secrets” on February 24. The exact whereabouts of the three students are unknown; however, they are thought to be held in detention facilities in Urumqi. The whereabouts of Mutellip Imin and Atikem Rozi remain unknown, as do any charges laid against them. Both Halmurat and Imin, who worked with Tohti on the website Uyghur Online, were briefly detained in late 2013 as they tried to return to their studies abroad.

The charge of separatism carries a penalty of between 10 years to life in prison, or even the death penalty.

Write A Letter

  • Expressing concern at  the crackdown on Chinese Uyghurs crtical of the government, in particular the arrest and subsequent charges laid against Uyghur writer and academic Ilham Tohti, and calling for his immediate and unconditional release;
  • Urging the authorities to reveal where he is being held and seeking assurances of his well-being;
  • Reminding the Chinese authorities that Article 35 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China provides for freedom of speech and that as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides for freedom of legitimate expression, the right not to be arbitrarily detained and the right to a fair trial, they are obliged to “refrain from acts that would defeat or undermine the treaty’s objective and purpose.”

Send Your Letter To

President Xi Jinping Guojia Zhuxi
The State Council General Office
2 Fuyoujie
Xichengqu, Beijingshi 100017,
People's Republic of China
Fax: +86 10 6238 1025
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Your Excellency

Premier Li Keqiang Guojia Zongli
The State Council General Office
2 Fuyoujie
Xichengqu, Beijingshi 100017,
People's Republic of China
Fax: +86 10 6238 1025
Email: gov[email protected]
Salutation: Your Excellency
 
Abuliz Usour Tingzhang
Director of Department of Justice
Xinjiang Weiwuer Zizhiqu Sifating
27 Renminlu
Urumqi 830
Xinjiang Weiwuer Zizhiqu
People's Republic of China
Fax: +86 99 1231 1590