Several students of a prominent ethnic Uighur blogger and economist may soon go on trial in China following the life sentence given to their former teacher.
Those facing trial are students at Beijing's Minzu University of jailed economics professor Ilham Tohti, the U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia said, citing an interview with Tohti's wife.
Tohti, 44, a prominent Uighur academic who founded the news site Uighur Online, was sentenced to life in prison Sept. 23 for separatism. Seven of Tohti's students vanished in Beijing in January around the time Tohti was arrested.
Video of three of them denouncing Tohti from behind bars were used during Tohti's trial in September and later broadcast on Chinese television, according to the New York Times. In one of the videos, a student accuses Tohti of using the news website to "hype" tensions between China's majority Han ethnic group and Uighurs in the country's western Xinjiang region. In another, a student says Tohti threatened to withhold his diploma unless he continued doing design work for the website. Forced confessions are common in China, the Times added.
Tohti's wife, Guzelnur, told Radio Free Asia she had received a call Nov. 12 from the mother of one of the jailed students saying his trial would begin soon, most likely in Xinjiang's regional capital Urumqi.
The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region, China’s largest is populated mostly by Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim group with cultural links to central Asian countries.. Separatists, who refer to the region as “EastTurkestan,” are currently considered terrorists by officials in Beijing.
Not only do Uighurs face widespread discrimination and political marginalization, the region has been marked by a wave of widespread violence over the past six months, including a blast which killed at least 50 people near a market in September.