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Academic arrested following publication of online article

(WiPC/IFEX) - The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN is seriously concerned about the detention of Uyghur writer, academic and member of the Uyghur PEN Centre, Iham Tohti, who was reportedly arrested in Beijing on 6 July 2009. He had spoken out on the ethnic unrest which broke out in Urumqi on 5 July 2009. International PEN seeks details of any charges against Iham Tohti, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release if held in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory.

According to PEN's information, leading Uyghur academic and activist Iham Tohti was arrested in Beijing after an online report in which he criticised Nur Bekri, Chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Regional People's Government for his perceived support of Han Chinese following the recent ethnic unrest in Urumqi in which hundreds died. Iham Tohti is Associate Professor of the Economics School at the Central Nationalities University in Beijing. He is also Chairman and General Manager of Uyghur Online Web Technology Development Co. Ltd., and a guest professor at the University of Kazakhstan.

Tohti was born in Atush, Xinjiang, on 25 October 1969. He graduated from the Northeast Normal University and the Economics School at the Central Nationalities University in Beijing. He has studied in Korea, Japan, and Pakistan, and is known for his critical views of Chinese government policy and the provincial leadership in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR). He has been previously detained on three occasions for his peaceful support of Uyghur rights, and is a member of Uyghur PEN. For more background on Tohti's writings, click here: http://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/tohti-03062009130647.html?searchterm=None

Background

The Xinjiang Autonomous Region in north-west China is home to many Muslim Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking ethnic group, some of whom have waged a low-level separatist struggle for independence from Chinese rule for decades and where repressive government policies have led to severe economic deprivation amongst the Uyghur community and fomented ethnic tension between Uyghurs and Han Chinese. It is widely believed that the Chinese government has exaggerated the alleged terrorist threat in the region to suppress peaceful political and cultural expression.

(. . .)

Writers and journalists are amongst those at particular risk of arrest in the region for speaking out on these issues.

On 5 July 2009, Uyghurs took to the streets of Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), to protest an incident in which a number of Uyghur workers in a toy factory in Guan Dong province, southern China, were attacked by Han Chinese and killed. These protests led to violent clashes with Han Chinese in Urumqi which were violently suppressed by the authorities. The state news agency Xinhua reports that 156 have been killed and over 1000 wounded, although details and figures are impossible to verify. An estimated 1400 people are said to have been arrested.

Please send appeals:

- Expressing serious concern about the detention of Uyghur writer and academic Iham Tohti, apparently for expressing views critical of Chinese economic policy in XUAR, and seeking details of any charges against him;

- Calling for his immediate and unconditional release if held in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory.

- Seeking assurances that he is granted full access to his family and legal representation, and is treated humanely in detention.

- Calling upon the Chinese authorities to protect the right of citizens to accurate, impartial information, the right to peaceful assembly and free expression of all citizens, and the right to a fair trial for anyone suspected of committing a crime during the protests.

The WiPC recommends that you copy your appeal to the Chinese embassy in your country asking them to forward it and welcoming any comments.

Government addresses:

His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People's Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032
P.R. China.

Chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Regional People's Government
Nur Bekri
Xinjiang Weiwuer Zizhiqu Renmin Zhengfu
2 Zhongshanlu
Wulumuqishi 830041
Xinjiang Weiwuer Zizhiqu
People's Republic of China.

Please note that fax numbers are not available for the Chinese authorities, so you may wish to ask the diplomatic representative for China in your country to forward your appeals.

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for China in your country if possible.

Please contact the PEN WiPC office in London if sending appeals after 1 August 2009

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