After taking away the economic professor, Ilham Tohti’s, around 30 police officers raided the academic’s home in Beijing in a six-hour operation Wednesday afternoon, said his wife Guzaili Nu’er in a phone interview.
It was the latest and most serious of recent actions by the Chinese authorities in an apparent retaliation for his criticism of the ruling Communist Party’s restrictive policies in his homeland in western China.
Guzaili Nu’er said that Ilham Tohti and his two sons were at home while she was at work when police arrived. She rushed home but her husband had already been taken away.
Beijing police did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment and calls to Ilham Tohti’s mobile phone have failed to connect.
In the wake of deadly ethnic rioting in the capital of the Uighur ethnic homeland of Xinjiang, in 2009 that sparked a nationwide crackdown on Uighur activists, Ilham Tohti is barred from traveling and placed under house arrest many times.
He has not joined calls for Xinjiang’s independence but his outspokenness on problems with China’s ethnic policies has made him a target of the security services.
He is usually able to return at night after being taken away for questioning for several hours, because this time he did not come home, his wife said.
Guzaili Nu’er said police seized four computers, several mobile phones and Ilham Tohti’s students’ thesis papers, and refused to answer her questions about where her husband was taken too, or why.
“This time it’s different. They sent so many security officers, including police from Xinjiang, Beijing and the nearby police station. This time it is more serious,” she said.
A close friend of Ilham Tohti’s, Huang Zhangjin said by phone, in the recent weeks Chinese authorities had summoned Ilham Tohti’s students for questioning, in what looked like an effort to collect evidence to take further action against the academic.
Associated Press videographer Isolda Morillo in Beijing contributed to this report.