IFJ Welcomes Release in China of IIham Tohti

The International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the reported release in China

this week of the founder of an online discussion forum who disappeared for more

than a month after riots erupted in Xinjiang

Province in early July.

 

IIham

Tohti, who established Uyghur Online at www.uighurbiz.cn and is a professor at the Central National University

in Beijing, disappeared from his home in Beijing on July 7.

 

He had reportedly told friends he

had received a “formal notice” from local authorities late on July 7 referring

to articles posted that day on Uyghur Online criticising the Chairman of the Xinjiang

Uyghur Autonomous Regional People’s Government.

 

According

to a report in the Hong Kong-based Ming

Pao newspaper, Tohti refused to talk on the phone that evening, saying that

some “official personnel” were at his home.

 

Tohti

was reported to have been released by authorities on August 23. No explanation

was given for his detention or release.

 

A

friend of Tohti’s told the IFJ that Tohti had been detained by officials at an

unknown location. He has been permitted to return to his family subject to the

right of authorities to question him at any time, the friend said.

 

Uyghur Online is reported to be accessible

again, after being shut down without explanation in early July. Tohti’s blog remains blocked.

 

“The

IFJ welcomes the release of Ilham Tohti, although there is still no explanation

for his detention,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said. “We are also

pleased to learn that restrictions on Uyghur Online have apparently been

lifted.”

 

“It

remains of concern however that authorities may arbitrarily question Tohti at

any time. This amounts to harassment and an effort to restrict freedom of

expression.

 

“We

urge China’s

authorities to fully respect Tohti’s right to freedom of movement and freedom

of expression.”     

 

Tohti,

39, set up the website in 2006 as a discussion forum for ethnic

Uighurs, who live mostly in Xinjiang. After rioting broke out in the province

on July 5, Xinjiang Chairman Nur Bekri alleged the site had

fomented violence by spreading rumours.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents over 600,000 journalists in

120 countries worldwide