BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities on Saturday announced a list of political offenses against minority Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti, who has been detained since last week, accusing him of leading a separatist group that advocates violence to overthrow the Chinese rule in the restive western region of Xinjiang.
The scholar’s wife said the accusations are groundless.
The Bureau of Public Security for Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, said in an online statement that Ilham Tohti recruited followers through a website he founded to cause trouble, spread separatist thoughts, incite ethnic hatred and engaged in separatist activities.
It said the scholar told his students that Uighurs should use violence and oppose the government as China opposed Japanese invaders during the World War II.
Ilham Tohti has not been formally charged, but prosecution is all but guaranteed as China tightens control over the region where a series of clashes between native Turkish Muslim Uighurs and police have killed dozens of people in the past several months.
In fresh violence Friday, state media reported that 12 people were killed in explosions and clashes with police. A spokesman for an exiled Uighur advocacy group blamed authorities for the deaths.
Ilham Tohti was taken away from his Beijing home on Jan. 15 without any official account.
His wife, Guzaili Nu’er, said that the family has never been informed of his whereabouts or his formal detention. She said family members were under 24-hour police surveillance.
“I don’t know what they are talking about. It is nonsense,” she said of the accusations against her husband.
The Uighurs have complained of discrimination from China’s majority Han people and repressive religious policies, but China says it is cracking down on terrorism inspired by radical Islam.
Ilham Tohti has not joined calls for Xinjiang’s independence but his outspokenness on problems with China’s ethnic policies has made him a target of security forces. He has criticized the authoritarian government’s heavy-handed handling of recent unrest, saying China’s stifling security presence, widespread discrimination and restrictions have fanned ethnic discord in Xinjiang.