Uighur Writer and PEN Member Released
International PEN welcomes the release of Uighur writer, academic and Uighur PEN Center member Ilham Tohti, on August 22, 2009. He spent over six weeks in detention, and remains under close surveillance. PEN expresses serious concern about the continuing restrictions he faces and remains alarmed about the dire state of freedom of expression in China. It reiterates its call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in violation of their right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which China is a signatory.
Ilham Tohti was arrested in Beijing on July 6, 2009, after speaking out on the ethnic unrest that broke out in Urumqi on July 5, 2009. He was initially held under house arrest before being transferred to an unknown location where he was held incommunicado for interrogation.
Tohti is known for his critical views of Chinese government policy and the provincial leadership in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), and has been previously detained on three occasions for his peaceful activities. He is a member of Uighur PEN.
After his release on August 22, 2009, Ilham Tohti gave an interview to Radio Free Asia (RFA). The following is an extract of that interview:
HONG KONG—A prominent Beijing-based economist and member of China’s Uighur ethnic minority has been released without charge after he was detained for allegedly promoting separatism, but he said police then visited his home to warn him he could still be tried and executed.
Ilham Tohti, a professor at Beijing’s Central Nationalities University, said his cell phone resumed service Saturday and he was released after more than one month in custody.
But he said police knocked on his door late Monday to warn him against speaking out against the government’s handling of deadly July 5 riots that pitted mainly Muslim Uighurs against majority Han Chinese in Urumqi, capital of China’s northwestern Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
“They told me I could soon be sentenced—be sentenced to death, be 'dealt with,'” Tohti said.
Tohti said that one police officer remained in his home and stood by his side as he spoke with RFA in a telephone interview.
“I did not want to see what happened in Xinjiang on July 5. Ordinary citizens must be left alone to go on with their lives…I do not harbor any conspiracies, but I want to firmly defend the legal rights of the Uyghur people,” he said.
Write A Letter
- Welcoming the release of Ilham Tohti, but expressing concern that he is still facing restrictions solely for the peaceful expression of his opinions;
- Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in violation of their right to freedom of expression in China, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which China is a signatory.
Send Your Letter To
His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
Chairman of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Regional People's Government
Xinjiang Weiwuer Zizhiqu Renmin Zhengfu
Xinjiang Weiwuer Zizhiqu
Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for China in your country if possible.
Please check with PEN if sending appeals after November 1, 2009: ftw[at]pen.org