AFP reports that China has arrested a university professor in Beijing for writing about the Xinjiang riots on his website. The AFP report quotes from Reporters Without Borders, which alerts that Professor Ilham Tohti, an economist at Minzu University of China and an ethnic Uighur, was arrested. Professor Tohti has been repeatedly harassed by the Public Security Bureau in Beijing since March this year for posting articles on his blog exploring relations between ethnic Han Chinese and Uyghur in Xinjiang. The PSB, however, refused to confirm Professor Tohti’s arrest for AFP reporters.
I am a regular reader of Professor Tohti’s website, which is now blocked from within China. I find the website very helpful in understanding the lives of people in Xinjiang. I find no evidence of the website inciting violence, as claimed by some Xinjiang authorities on CCTV. I suspect Chinese authorities targeted the website because it provides an alternative perspective to ethnic issues, which from time to time, contradicts the Han-centric official line.
MORE UPDATES ON MEDIA COVERAGE OF URUMQI
Media coverage of situation in Urumqi is a bit confusing today:
BBC describes it as “uneasy calm” in Urumqi;
Aljazeera highlights fear on Urumqi street. Both Han and Uighur residents are not confident that the Government’s approach is helpful in sorting out a long term solution;
Bloomberg points out that China’s show of force brings uneasy truce to Urumqi after riots.
The best eyewitness report goes to ABC’s Tom Iggulden, who is reporting directly from Urumqi. The report captures on video footages of Uighur people and foreign press being assaulted by Han Chinese.
The best blog post for today is published by Xiao Qiang at China Digital Times. CDT has translated an astonishing entry from the mitbbs.com, an American-based Chinese language online forum frequented by Chinese students studying abroad. The entry contains an usually sober and objective assessment of the situation made by an ethnic Chinese with strong family ties in Urumqi. I particularly appreciate the fact that this young person who posts under the name “ulmqman” is showing great concerns for the predicament of a forgotten group of people in Urumqi, the Kazakhs. He wrote and I quote:
哈萨克人很郁闷，两头不挨，害怕被维族人杀，也怕被汉族人伤害。(Kazakhs are in a very difficult situation. They don’t belong to either side. They are afraid of being killed by Uighurs, and afraid of being killed by Hans.)
I agree with some commenters at mitbbs.com that the conflicts between ethnic groups in Xinjiang cannot be resolved by force or by blaming a few so-called Uighur terrorists. A coordinated plan from the Government is desperately needed to encourage dialogue among ethnic groups. Unfortunately and regrettably, we cannot see signs of that happening any time soon.