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Uighur intellectual freed by China a month after disappearing

 In this photo taken on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2009 and released by China's Xinhua News Agency Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009, Chinese President Hu Jintao, right,...
 In this photo taken on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2009 and released by China's Xinhua News Agency Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009, Chinese President Hu Jintao, center...
 FILE - In this July 13, 2009 file photo, paramilitary police officers patrol as Uighur men walk by in Urumqi, in western China's Xinjiang province. P...

China Unrest

In this photo taken on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2009 and released by China's Xinhua News Agency Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009, Chinese President Hu Jintao, right,...

China Unrest

In this photo taken on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2009 and released by China's Xinhua News Agency Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009, Chinese President Hu Jintao, center...

China Unrest

FILE - In this July 13, 2009 file photo, paramilitary police officers patrol as Uighur men walk by in Urumqi, in western China's Xinjiang province. P...

An outspoken Uighur economist who disappeared for more than a month after being accused of stirring up China's worst ethnic violence in decades said Wednesday that authorities have freed him without charge.
Ilham Tohti, widely considered to be among China's more moderate Uighur rights advocates, said he was put under house arrest two days after ethnic riots between Muslim Uighurs and the dominant Han Chinese erupted in the western Xinjiang capital of Urumqi on July 5. The violence killed nearly 200.
Tohti, 39, was first held at a hotel on the outskirts of Beijing and later in his apartment. He was freed Saturday.
Police questioned him for up to 20 hours at a time but did not otherwise mistreat him, he said.
"When I was sick, they went out and got me medicine ... at the hotel I was allowed to go outside for walks but couldn't use a phone," said Tohti of his interrogators, who apparently worked for China's secretive Ministry of State Security.
He said he paid close attention to a visit to Xinjiang earlier this week by President Hu Jintao _ the leader's first since the riots.
"He's clearly very concerned about the situation in Xinjiang," Tohti said. "He said that the government should train more minorities to be cadres. ...This is something I have written about before and believe is important."
Tohti's Chinese-language Web site, which had became a lively forum about Uighur life and views, was criticized by Xinjiang Governor Nur Bekri for allegedly helping to orchestrate the violence and spread propaganda.
Tohti insists he did nothing wrong and said he plans to continue to speak out about problems in Xinjiang, particularly policies that have disadvantaged and marginalized native Uighurs.
"We really have to try harder to get our message across, to let our Han Chinese compatriots understand us, to appeal to the leaders and the people within the system," he said. "We can't not speak up. What's the point of being afraid? If you stay quiet at home, your destiny will not change."
State television and the official Xinhua News Agency said the president pledged during his visit to introduce new reforms to accelerate economic growth in Xinjiang, saying stability there matters to the whole country. His trip ended Tuesday.
Hu said China would focus on economic construction, upholding social stability and developing all ethnic groups, but gave no specifics.
Uighurs have long complained of discrimination and economic marginalization by Han migrants who have flooded into Xinjiang since communist troops entered the region in 1949. Like Tibetans, another restive minority, many Uighurs claim they were independent for much of their history.
The violence in Urumqi broke out after police stopped an initially peaceful protest by Uighur youths, prompting crowds to smash windows, burn cars and attack Han Chinese. Two days later, Han vigilantes carried out revenge attacks.
Beijing has repeatedly accused exiled Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer of fomenting the violence, but have offered little proof.


Updated : 2021-08-04 02:55 GMT+08:00