An academic from China’s minority Uighur community has gone on trial charged with attempting to promote independence for the Muslim majority Xinjiang province.
Human rights groups say Beijing-based scholar Ilham Tohti is being made a scapegoat for violence carried out by Islamist militants in the northwestern region.
Tohti, who is critical of China’s ethnic policies, is accused of associating with terrorist organisations, which he denies.
His case has caught the attention of EU diplomats.
“We have already expressed our concern over his indictment, especially because Mr. Tohti worked peacefully within Chinese laws for years, especially to promote a good relationship between minorities in China and for equal rights,” said Raphael Droszewski, first secretary of political affairs at the Delegation of the European Union in Beijing.
Chinese officials are worried about rising tensions in the northwest of the country. The Uighur community’s calls for an independent state of East Turkistan appear to be getting louder with an increase in violence in recent months.
Tohti, who was arrested in January, could face 10 years to life in prison or be sentenced to death if found guilty.