We have learned of the formal arrest of Ilham Tohti, renowned professor of economics at the Central Nationalities University (中央民族大学). He now stands accused of attempted separatism, a crime punishable, in the worst of cases, by the death. Although Professor Tohti regularly speaks out to defend the rights of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang and to question the central administration’s policy in this region, he has never approved of violence, nor has he defended the cause of independence of Xinjiang or any other form of separatism. Ilham Tohti’s criticisms and propositions are based on his academic research which he has carried out with the utmost rigour. Indeed, through his website “Uyghurs online,” he has worked for a number of years towards creating a space for dialogue between the Han majority and the Uyghurs. Through student exchanges, co-advised PhDs and joint research projects, our university has enjoyed a long-standing partnership with the Central Nationalities University, an institution renowned for its academic excellence. For all these reasons, we wish to draw attention to the worrying situation of this colleague. This affair constitutes an inacceptable violation of the intellectual freedom of academics, and more generally, of freedom of expression.
Gregory Lee, Chair of the Department of Chinese, University of Lyon (Jean Moulin)
Claire Dodane, Director, the Institute for Transtextual and Transcultural Studies (IETT), University of Lyon (Jean Moulin)
Florent Villard, Deputy Director, the Institute for Transtextual and Transcultural Studies (IETT), University of Lyon (Jean Moulin)
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