View Full Version : Ilham Tohti is freed on Sunday

23-08-09, 12:58
August 24, 2009
Chinese Activists Released

BEIJING — Chinese authorities unexpectedly released three political activists from detention on Sunday, including one whose case had drawn worldwide attention.

Officials offered no reason for the releases, but they occurred one day after the new American ambassador to China, the former Utah governor Jon M. Huntsman Jr., arrived in Beijing.

The government did not say whether it has also suspended criminal tax-evasion charges that were made last week against one of the freed men, Xu Zhiyong, a well-known public-interest lawyer, that could result in a prison sentence of seven years were he convicted.

“It is difficult to say” whether the charges remain intact, Mr. Xu told The Associated Press after his release.

Mr. Xu, 36, and a co-worker, Zhuang Lu, were released more than three weeks after they were seized in their homes on July 29. Authorities also shut down Mr. Xu’s Guangmeng legal center, also known as the Open Constitution Initiative, from which Mr. Xu and others had taken on cases against government authorities on behalf of average citizens.

Recently, Mr. Xu’s center represented parents whose children were sickened by chemical-tainted milk, a regulatory scandal that embarrassed the government and led to the collapse of one of the nation’s biggest dairy companies.

Separately, Beijing authorities also released Ilham Tohti, an economist, Internet activist and ethnic Uighur who had been detained after deadly riots erupted in western Xinjiang region in early July.

Mr. Tohti, 39, ran a Web site called Uighur Online, a popular forum for ethnic Uighurs, who live mostly in Xinjiang, to discuss issues important to them. After the July rioting, Xinjiang’s governor, Nur Bekri, charged that the site had helped foment the violence by spreading rumors.

The Web site has since been closed.