China's media accuse Uighur scholar of separatism
BEIJING (AP) -- A state-run newspaper in China accused a recently detained Uighur scholar and government critic of splitting ethnic unity in a Saturday editorial, while his lawyer said he had received no official word about the academic.
Ilham Tohti, an economics professor known for his criticism of Beijing's heavy repression of the Uighur ethnic minority, was taken away by police from his Beijing home on Wednesday.
Lawyer Li Fangping said Saturday that police failed to inform the family of Ilham Tohti of his whereabouts and possible charges, as required by China's law. Li said he believed that the professor was taken back to the western region of Xinjiang, home to most of China's ethnic Uighurs.
European and American officials have urged China to explain why police have detained him.
Uighur police could not be reached Saturday. Beijing police have not responded to repeated requests for comment. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular briefing Thursday that Ilham Tohti "is suspected of violating the law and committing a crime" and that police have placed him under criminal detention.
In a Saturday editorial, the state-run newspaper Global Times said that the Beijing-based professor has openly propagated separatism. The newspaper piece does not speak for the government, but it may reflect its views.
"Ilham Tohti is no ordinary Joe. He has close relationships with the World Uyghur Congress and overseas media," the editorial said. "He often gives instigative speech in classroom." The congress is a Germany-based group that seeks greater autonomy for Uighur people.
The Global Times editorial questioned why Ilham Tohti had been allowed to teach at Minzu University.
"What has surprised and puzzled us is that given his open speech of separatism, why he could remain standing behind the podium of a university classroom?" it said, adding that "Minzu University should be by no means a place where people like Ilham Tohti can instill extremist thoughts in students."
Li, the lawyer, said that the editorial serves the purpose of government propaganda.