Home > Ilham Tohti Archives > Biography & Timeline > China Change: Ilham Tohti

On 15 January 2014, Chinese authorities arrested Ilham Tohti, a Uighur economics professor at the prestigious Minzu University in Beijing. Today, February 16, marks the 32nd day of his detention. His family has yet to receive any legal document detailing his whereabouts or the charges against him. For years, Tohti has discussed and commented on not only Chinese policies in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, where the vast majority of this Turkic Muslim population lives, but also the state of Han-Uighur relations. He founded the Chinese-language website 维吾尔在线 (Uighurs Online), which is meant to facilitate communication and understanding between the two peoples. Today, China Change launches an “Ilham Tohti” button on its homepage. A group of concerned scholars and experts will collect, post, and update information regarding Professor Tohti in an effort to raise awareness of his detention and press for his release.

We have created a ‘Free Ilham Campaign’ Twitter account. Please consider following @FreeIlham, including our Twitter handle, and using the hashtag #FreeIlham when you post news, comments, or links about Ilham Tohti.

Statements by International Human Rights Advocacy Organizations

  • Amnesty International

Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 3 million supporters, members and activists in over 150 countries and territories who campaign to end grave abuses of human rights. Our vision is for every person to enjoy all the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.

We are independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion, and are funded mainly by our membership and public donations.


URGENT ACTION: Uighur scholar AT RISK OF DEATH SENTENCE, 26 February 2014

  • Amnesty International Taiwan


  • Chinese Human Rights Defenders

Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) is a network of Chinese and international activists promoting human rights and empowering rights defenders in China. A non-governmental organization, CHRD provides logistical support and capacity building services to human rights advocates, monitors human rights developments, and assists victims of human rights abuses. CHRD advocates the peaceful realization of human rights protection through democratization and rule of law reform.

Arbitrary Detention: Police Detain Uighur Professor and Blogger Ilham Tohti 

  • Committee of Concerned Scientists

We are scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars dedicated to protecting the human rights and scientific freedom of colleagues around the world.

Advocate for Uighur Minority in China Arrested, Taken to Undisclosed Location

  • Human Rights Foundation

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. HRF unites people in the common cause of defending human rights and promoting liberal democracy. Our mission is to ensure that freedom is both preserved and promoted around the world.

China: HRF Condemns the Arrest and Disappearance of Uyghur Professor Ilham Tohti

  • Freedom House 

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world. Freedom House speaks out against the main threats to democracy and empowers citizens to exercise their fundamental rights.  We analyze the challenges to freedom; advocate for greater political and civil liberties; and support frontline activists to defend human rights and promote democratic change.  Founded in 1941, Freedom House was the first American organization to champion the advancement of freedom globally.

Uighur academic Ilham Tohti held incommunicado, name censored online

FH China Media Bulletin, Issue No. 99: February 12, 2014

State media limit reporting, commentary on Tiananmen explosion

FH China Media Bulletin, Issue No. 96: November 12, 2013

  • Frontline Defenders

Front Line Defenders is the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. Front Line Defenders was founded in Dublin in 2001 with the specific aim of protecting human rights defenders at risk, people who work, non-violently, for any or all of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Front Line Defenders addresses the protection needs identified by defenders themselves.

China: Detention of Uyghur academic and human rights defender Mr Ilham Tohti 

  • Global Voices Online

Global Voices Advocacy is a Project of Global Voices Online. We are a Global Network of bloggers and online activists dedicated to protecting freedom of expression and free access to information online. We report on threats to online speech, share tactics for defending the work and words of netizens, and support efforts to improve Internet policy and practice worldwide.

China: Free Ilham Tohti, Support Ethnic Reconciliation

  • Initiatives for China 

Initiatives for China is a grassroots movement dedicated to advancing a peaceful transition to democracy in China. Our movement is embedded with the belief that such a transition can only be achieved through structural reform of the current system of government that by its very nature denies universally recognized political and social rights to its citizens. Our movement further recognizes that such reform can only be driven by the citizens of China through the application of Gong Min Li Liang(公民力量 “Citizen power”) and through cooperative and unified action of the all the diverse peoples that are under the rule of the Chinese government.

Ilham Tohti Arrest Draws International Condemnation

  • Pen International 

PEN International celebrates literature and promotes freedom of expression. Founded in 1921, our global community of writers now numbers more than 20,000 and spans more than 100 countries. Our programmes, campaigns, events and publications aim to connect writers and readers wherever they are in the world.

China: Uyghur PEN member, writer and academic Ilham Tohti detained; fears for safety

  • Chinese PEN 

CHINA: Uyghur PEN member, writer and academic Ilham Tohti detained; fears for safety

  • PEN American Blog

The Human Face of the Free Expression Crackdown in China

  • Reporters without Borders 

Reporters Without Borders was founded in Montpellier (France) in 1985 by four journalists. Registered as a non-profit organisation in France since 1995, it soon took on an international dimension.

Reporters Without Borders organised its team of researchers by geographical area. The organization also gradually developed two essential and highly specialised spheres of activity: one focused on Internet Censorship and the New Media, and the other devoted to providing material, financial and psychological assistance to journalists assigned to dangerous areas.


  • Scholars at Risk 

Around the world today, scholars are attacked because of their words, their ideas and their place in society. Those seeking power and control work to limit access to information and new ideas by targeting scholars, restricting academic freedom and repressing research, publication, teaching and learning. The Scholars at Risk Network responds to these attacks. Scholars at Risk (SAR) is an international network of higher education institutions dedicated to protecting threatened scholars, preventing attacks on higher education communities and promoting academic freedom worldwide.

Letter to Xi Jinping, RE: Professor Ilham Tohti

  • UN Watch 

UN Watch is a non-governmental organization based in Geneva whose mandate is to monitor the performance of the United Nations by the yardstick of its own charter.

China should release immediately Ilham Tohti

  • Uyghur Human Rights Project

The Uyghur Human rights Project (UHRP) was founded by the Uyghur American Association (UAA) in 2004 with a supporting grant from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). UHRP’s mission is to promote human rights and democracy for the Uyghur people, and to raise awareness of human rights abuses that occur in East Turkestan, referred to by the Chinese authorities since 1955 as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

Uyghur Human Rights Project urges international community to maintain vigilance on the condition of Uyghur academic, Ilham Tohti

Chinese language text 

  • World Uyghur Congress

Non-violent and peaceful movement that rejects authoritarianism, religious intolerance, and terrorism as instruments of policy. Founded in 2004, the World Uyghur Congress represents the interests of the Uyghur people worldwide. Rebiya Kadeer is the current president of the organization.

WUC Alarmed by the Arbitrary Detention of Ilham Tohti

  • Committee to Protect Journalists

China slaps separatism charges on Uighur blogger, 26 February 2014

Government Statements


  • Change.org

Change.org is the world’s largest petition platform, empowering people everywhere to create the change they want to see.

Turkish Petition

Commentary on Ilham Tohti Arrest and Detention

Foreign Affairs, 26 January 2014

The Interpreter (Lowy Institute for International Policy), 24 January 2014

The National Interest (Center for the National Interest), 24 January 2014


Ilham Tohti, “My Ideals and the Career Path I Have Chosen (《我的理想和事业选择之路》)”

This Chinese-language autobiographical essay describes his family background, academic interests, and perspectives on Uyghur-Han relations as well as Chinese government policies.

News Reports

Outspoken Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti gave a lengthy statement by phone to RFA’s Uyghur Service reporter Mihray Abdilim before he was detained by Chinese authorities on Jan. 15 from his Beijing home. He had requested that the statement be made public if he were taken into custody, not heard from afterward, and accused of various charges by the authorities without any right of reply. When he made the statement on July 24, 2013, he was also concerned that he would be tortured and forced to make a confession or even face the prospect of death while in custody. Tohti, who is a professor at the Central University for Nationalities in Beijing and runs the Uyghur Online website, has spoken out for greater autonomy for the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in China’s far northwest. RFA has published an abridged version of his statement.


Source: https://chinachange.org/ilham-tohti/

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