Ilham Tohti, a teacher of economics at the Minzu University of China, was reportedly arrested by police on Wednesday.
A person unfamiliar to most Chinese people, Tohti has been widely covered by Western media in the past two days. Even US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki has shown concern.
The nearly live coverage shows a particularly close link between Tohti and the West.
Indeed, Tohti is no ordinary Joe. Closely watched by the World Uyghur Congress, he is known to have often given aggressive lectures in class. He founded the Uighur Online website in 2006, which was very active around the riots in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in 2009, which left nearly 200 people dead.
Tohti was arrested several times for instigation and "spreading rumors," according to reports. And he was frequently quoted by foreign media during incidents involving the Uyghur ethnic minority in recent years.
Being a Uyghur has made Tohti special, and he and the West seem to be taking advantage of this. But in front of the law, he is no different to anyone else. Tohti is first of all a Chinese citizen and if he has committed a crime he will be held responsible.
Tohti's case is still under investigation, and official information is scarce.
The Western media have been framing this case as yet another "sad story involving Uyghurs being suppressed."
The authorities should keep the public updated with any progress into the investigation, and strictly follow legal procedures, so as to leave no space for outsiders to raise any questions.
The law will draw a fair conclusion on Tohti's alleged crime. But it is strange that a person like him can still stay in the university lecturing students.
Freedom of speech and thought is encouraged on campus. But freedom has boundaries. Teachers with malicious intent should not be allowed to freely preach to students.
Last year after several Uyghurs drove a car to ram into pedestrians near Tiananmen Square, Tohti said that what the government described as terrorists were probably people who wanted to set themselves on fire after being mistreated.
Tohti was attempting to find a moral excuse for terrorists.
Too many terrorist attacks involving Xinjiang have occurred in the past few years, killing many innocent people, including Uyghurs.
The authorities must resolutely crack down on the terrorists, as well as the "brains" behind them. Without the brains, the terrorists will be like a clueless mob.
As long as the rule of law is strictly applied to such cases, the "concerns" of the West will become baseless.