World Uyghur Congress President and Rafto Prize laureate, Ms Rebiya Kadeer, during a panel discussion at the Rafto symposium at Radisson Blu Hotel Norge in Bergen, Norway, on 4 November 2011.
Forced disappearance of Ilham Tohti
  • Tue, 02/18/2014 - 09:34

Published: Tuesday, 18 February 2014, 12:34

Modified: Tuesday, 18 February 2014, 12:34

The Rafto Foundation calls for the immediate release of Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti.

On 15 January 2014, prominent economic professor Ilham Tohti was taken into custody by Beijing police. His whereabouts are unknown, but according to Reporters Without Borders, he may have been transferred to a prison in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Amnesty International has expressed concern that he is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

Release him
”The Rafto Foundation is condemning the detention of Professor Tohti and urge China to reveal his whereabouts, treat him humanely and ultimately release him from custody,” says Therese Jebsen, executive director of the Rafto Foundation.

Ilham Tohti is an outspoken scholar at the Central University for Nationalities in Beijing. He is peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, and he is known for his criticism of the Chinese government's policies toward Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Professor Tohti has put forward various suggestions on how the Chinese government can adjust its policy in Xinjiang and thereby solving the Uyghur issue peacefully and promoting ethnic reconciliation.

“As peaceful online Uyghur economic, social and cultural rights activist, he posed no threat to the Chinese state, yet he finds himself arbitrarily detained in what could be the final straw for him in the eyes of the Chinese Communist Party ,” said Ms Rebiya Kadeer, World Uyghur Congress President and Rafto Prize laureate, in a statement.

International condemnation
Both the United States of America and the European Union have condemned the detention of Mr. Tohti. In a press statement, the U.S. State Department write that his detention “appears to be part of a disturbing pattern of arrests and detentions of public interest lawyers, Internet activists, journalists, religious leaders and others who peacefully challenge official Chinese policies and actions.”

The Rafto Foundation is worried about the persecution of Uyghurs in northwestern China. Force and oppression are not the proper policies to resolve the Uyghur issue. The conflicts and discontents in Xinjiang should be resolved peacefully with cooperation between the People’s Republic of China and the Uyghurs. Instead of silencing critical voices, the Chinese authorities should start a dialogue with intellectuals as Ilham Tohti and other civic leaders.