Sunday, January 19, 2014

Uighur Scholar Ilham Tohti Detained, Sina Weibo Begins Censoring "Ilham"

On January 18, 2014, the state-sponsored Global Times published an editorial entitled “Leave No Chance for Malicious Preaching.” Some excerpts:
Ilham Tohti (伊力哈木·土赫提), a teacher of economics at the Minzu University of China, was reportedly arrested by police on Wednesday.
. . . .
Indeed, Tohti is no ordinary Joe. Closely watched by the World Uyghur Congress, he is known to have often given aggressive lectures in class. He founded the Uighur Online website in 2006, which was very active around the riots in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in 2009, which left nearly 200 people dead.
. . . .
Freedom of speech and thought is encouraged on campus. But freedom has boundaries. Teachers with malicious intent should not be allowed to freely preach to students.

Last year after several Uyghurs drove a car to ram into pedestrians near Tiananmen Square, Tohti said that what the government described as terrorists were probably people who wanted to set themselves on fire after being mistreated.

Tohti was attempting to find a moral excuse for terrorists.

Too many terrorist attacks involving Xinjiang have occurred in the past few years, killing many innocent people, including Uyghurs.

The authorities must resolutely crack down on the terrorists, as well as the "brains" behind them. Without the brains, the terrorists will be like a clueless mob.
The Chinese language version of the editorial was entitled “Do Not Give Separatism the Opportunity to “Preach” at Universities” (不给分裂势力在大学“布道”的机会).

These screenshots show that on January 17, Sina Weibo began censoring searches for “Ilham” (伊力哈木).

This screenshot, taken on January 16, Baidu was banning users from establishing a forum on “Ilham” on its PostBar (Tieba 贴吧) service.

This is not the first time Tohti has been detained.

On July 5, 2009, rioting took place between ethnic Uighurs and Han Chinese in Ürümqi, the capital of Xinjiang. The government reported that more than 150 people were killed during the clashes.

On July 6, Uighur Online was cited in a speech by Governor Bekri as a catalyst for the violence because it had helped instigate the rioting by spreading rumors. On July 6, Ilham Tohti told Radio Free Asia that he had gathered information about the riots but that he would not release it because the timing was too sensitive.

On July 7, Tohti reported that police had been watching his home and had called him. Tohti's last blog entry published on July 7, read: 
As the editor of Uyghur Online, I want only to tell Nur Bekri, 'You are right, everything you say is right, because you will decide everything. I have already offended too many powerful people, including yourself and others whom I don't want to and don't dare to offend. But right or wrong, there will be justice. I always tell myself [to be] cool and calm and make rational analyses. Going to court to resolve disputes is the fairest course of action in a lawful society. I have my own lawyer. When my trial comes up, don't appoint a lawyer for me. I will refuse any court-appointed lawyer. Even if we say that Uyghur Online and outsiders stirred thing up—stirred what up? People can think for themselves. If everything were working so well, why did so many people suddenly come out and riot? I think after this event the central government and the local government should give this some thought.
On July 8, 2009, Radio Free Asia reported that Tohti's whereabouts were unknown after he had been summoned from his home in Beijing.

On July 12, 2009, Chinese author Wang Lixiong (王力雄) and his wife Woeser, a noted Tibetan author and blogger, started an online petition calling for Tohti's release entitled “Appeal Regarding the Detention of Uighur Scholar Ilham Tohti" (关于维吾尔学者伊力哈木土赫提遭拘押的呼吁).

These screenshots were taken on July 23, 2009, and show that a search for “Ilham Appeal” (伊力哈木 呼吁) on Baidu and Sogou  returned no results, only a censorship notice.