News

August 7, 2009 - Updated on January 20, 2016

A month without word of detained blogger Ilham Tohti


Reporters Without Borders is very worried by the absence of information about blogger Ilham Tohti, the founder of the Uyghur Online blog (www.ulghurbiz.cn), since his arrest by police one month ago, on 7 July. Tohti had been relaying reports about the rioting that began on 26 June in Urumqi, the capital of the western province Xinjiang. The local authorities say he has “gone on holiday.” “We are very concerned about Tohti as we fail to understand why there has been no news of him,” Reporters Without Borders said, calling for his immediate release. “The claims of the Xinjiang authorities are both absurd and outrageous. There is no doubt that he was arrested.” An economics professor at Beijing’s Central Nationalities University, Tohti disappeared on 7 July after reporting that he had received a summons from the police and that his website had been blocked following renewed rioting in Urumqi on 5 July. It was the third time this year that Uyghur Online had been blocked. The Chinese authorities pressured him to stop posting articles in March and again in June. On 12 March, Tohti posted this note on the website: “I hope my readers will forgive me but I must remain silent for a while. I have to face a lot of threats and harassment. But whatever happens, I urge my friends to continue our struggle.” After Chinese writer Wang Lixiong and his wife, Tibetan writer Woeser, launched an online campaign for Tohti’s release, they received a visit from Public Security Bureau officials who told them the authorities were not holding Tohti. But, as Woeser has said, if Tohti were free he would have reported it on his blog. The official news agency Xinhua has quoted Xinjiang Information Bureau spokesperson Hou Hanmin as saying Tohti had “gone on holiday.” The Mandarin News newspaper has tried in vain to get in touch with him. After the 5 July rioting, Xinjiang’s authorities referred on national television to the Uyghur Online and Diyarim.com websites as channels for organising the protests. Access to more than 50 Internet forums and discussion platforms, including Uyghur Online, was blocked. Access was also blocked to social-networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MSN messenger. Free expression is closely controlled in Xinjiang, especially since September 2001. The situation became extremely tense for bloggers after the rioting began in the province.