China must release Ilham Tohti now
The Guardian, Sunday 27 April 2014
As writers and artists, we join PEN American Center today in protesting the arrest of our colleague, Uighur writer and scholar Ilham Tohti, who is being charged with separatism for the peaceful expression of his views on human rights. Mr Tohti, winner of the 2014 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, has been working peacefully to build bridges between Han Chinese and the Uighur people through his writing. His fate, now in the hands of the Chinese government, has profound implications for China's future. We urge President Xi Jinping to respect Mr Tohti's right to free expression by releasing him and dropping all charges against him immediately.
On 15 January 2014 authorities in Beijing arrested Mr Tohti at his home in front of his two young sons, who were forced to watch as dozens of officers raided their home. He was then effectively disappeared for over a month. Only on February 25 2014, did his wife, Guzaili Nu'er, receive formal notification that Mr Tohti was being held in a detention center thousands of miles away in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), and was being charged with separatism, a particularly serious offence. He has been refused access to his lawyer. We understand that he could face life imprisonment or even the death penalty if convicted on this baseless charge. We are particularly concerned that authorities are using Mr Tohti's website, Uighur Online, as a pretence for his persecution. Mr Tohti founded Uighur Online with the express purpose of promoting understanding between Uighurs and Han Chinese, and he has never advocated violence or promoted a political agenda. Instead, his website has served as a critically important counterpoint to the aggressive measures that Xi Jinping's administration has imposed against the Uighur people in the name of stability. Without dialogue, there can be no stability.
Human rights are of concern to all peoples regardless of frontiers, and freedom of expression is a fundamental human right recognised both under international law, and by the Chinese Constitution. Ilham Tohti has done nothing more than exercise the rights guaranteed to him by his country's own laws.Indeed, respecting and protecting human rights is not a detriment to any state, but rather a sign of its strength. The Chinese government has stated that creating a harmonious and stable society is its goal. To do so, the country must allow writers, artists, intellectuals, and all its citizens to speak their minds freely and interact with each other and with the world through whatever platform they choose.
Releasing Ilham Tohti and other writers imprisoned for exercising their right to free expression, including Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia, would show the world that China is a strong world power that accepts dissent as a crucial part of a healthy society. We know the Chinese people are ready to take this step. We hope their government is as well.
Sergio de la Pava
在中国西北新疆地区的紧张局势持续不断之时，包括保罗・奥斯特（Paul Auster），詹妮弗・伊根（Jennifer Egan）， 西瑞・阿斯维特（Siri Hustvedt）及萨尔曼・拉什迪（Salman Rushdie）在内的作家发表公开信，敦促中国国家主席释放维吾尔作家、学者伊力哈木・土赫提。
信中继续提到中国宪法也承认言论自由，土赫提“所做的无非是行使本国法律给予他的权利” 。信的作者还认为尊重人权是“国家实力的标志” 。
Salman Rushdie joins writers' protest at China's jailing of Ilham Tohti
theguardian.com, Monday 28 April 2014 03.00 EDT
As tensions continue in China's north-western area of Xinjang, writers including Paul Auster, Jennifer Egan, Siri Hustvedt and Salman Rushdie have written to the Guardian urging the Chinese president to release the Uighur writer and scholar Ilham Tohti.
Tohti, who founded the website Uighur Online in 2005 to promote dialogue in the ethnically divided region, was seized at his Beijing home by more than 30 police officers in January, disappearing for a month before being charged with "separatism" – a charge which leaves him facing life imprisonment or even the death penalty if convicted.
The letter argues that Tohti's fate will have "profound implications for China's future".
"Mr Tohti founded Uighur Online with the express purpose of promoting understanding between Uighurs and Han Chinese, and he has never advocated violence or promoted a political agenda," the letter continues. "Instead, his website has served as a critically important counterpoint to the aggressive measures your administration has imposed against the Uighur people in the name of stability."
Xinjiang's budget for anti-terrorism operations has doubled in 2014, raising concerns of increased repression as the region steps up operations which the government describes as a battle against terrorism and religious extremism.
Tohti, who has been refused access to his lawyer, teaches economics at the Central University for Nationalities in Beijing and has spoken out on Uighur issues for many years.
In 2009 he was detained for over a month after violent clashes in Urumqi left 200 dead. In February 2013 he was prevented from travelling to the US, where he was due to take up a fellowship at Indiana University, and held at Beijing airport. Officials allowed his daughter, Jewher Ilham, to board the plane in error, according to American PEN, stranding her in the US. With Tohti currently being held thousands of miles from his home in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi, she will accept the 2014 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write award in her father's place at a ceremony in New York on 5 May.
Tohti is one of about 35 writers currently imprisoned in China, including the 2010 Nobel peace laureate, Liu Xiaobo. The number of authors in detention has remained roughly constant since the Beijing Olympics in 2008, while surveillance and harassment have steadily increased.
With freedom of expression recognised by the Chinese constitution, the letter continues, Tohti "has done nothing more than exercise the rights guaranteed to him by his country's own laws". Respecting human rights is a "sign of … strength", the authors argue.
"Releasing Ilham Tohti and other writers imprisoned for exercising their right to free expression, including Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia, would show the world that China is a strong world power that welcomes dissent as a crucial part of a healthy society. We know the Chinese people are ready to take this step. We hope you are as well."