Whereabouts of Detained Uyghur Intellectual Unknown

By Carol Wickenkamp
Carol Wickenkamp
Carol Wickenkamp
January 28, 2014 Updated: January 28, 2014

Hours after new violence in Xinjiang, Uyghur economist Ilham Tohti, who was detained in Beijing on January 15, was accused by state media of “separatist” charges and possibly transported to Xinjiang’s provincial capitol, Urumqi.

Urumqi police announced on Sunday that Tohti was under investigation for promoting independence in Xinjiang Province, but Tohti’s wife could not verify that he had been taken from Beijing.

“I think my husband may be in Urumqi now,” Tohti’s wife, Guzelnur, told Radio Free Asia (RFA). “But neither the Beijing police nor Urumqi police are giving me any information about him,” she continued. 

Lawyer Li Fangping, seeking information about Tohti’s possible transfer from Beijing, traveled over 1300 miles to Urumqi to inquire about his whereabouts, but was kept waiting for 8 hours at the police station, with no results, said Tohti’s wife.

“It is impossible to communicate with the officials and they are refusing to answer phone calls. It has been exhausting,” Li told Reuters. He said he was not allowed to see Tohti or register to defend him. 

A high level Communist Party (CCP) official announced stricter management of religious activities, saying explosions in Xinjiang Province on Friday were “masterminded by a religious militant” reported regime mouthpiece Xinhua on Monday. 

The official did not mention Tohti by name in the remarks quoted by Xinhua. However, on Sunday a statement by the Urumchi Bureau of State Security, published in Xinhua, said that “Ilham Tohti organized a group with the disguise of his identity, colluded with leaders of overseas East Turkistan separatist forces, and sent followers overseas to engage in separatist activities.” 

Controversy exists about an explosion in Urumqi on Friday.

Xinhua reported that a deadly explosion in a Xinjiang market killed twelve on Friday, saying that police investigating a crime were attacked by thugs throwing explosives.

Not so, said Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress. Uyghurs were protesting against the sale of pigs in the market on Fridays, a Muslim holy day, when police fired into the crowd, hitting the gas tank of a vehicle, he told Al Jazeera on Sunday. 

“It is not possible for the Uyghurs to have weapons, given the tight controls by the authorities,” Raxit explained to Al Jazeera.

In yet another incident last week three Uyghurs were shot and killed by police in Awat County, who said that the men had attacked a police station in an act of “separatism. ”