Jailed Chinese activist wins top rights prize
A JAILED Chinese scholar defending the country’s mostly Muslim Uighur minority has been awarded a top human rights honour, a move swiftly condemned by Beijing.
Ilham Tohti, serving a life sentence for “separatism”, was awarded the Martin Ennals Prize for his criticism of Beijing’s policies toward Uighurs in the Xinjiang region.
The award foundation lauded his decades-long effort “to foster dialogue and understanding between Uighurs and Han Chinese” and his rejection of extremist rhetoric.
China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang slammed their decision, saying, “There is clear evidence of Ilham Tohti’s wrongdoings.”
“In his class, he hailed suspects who launched terrorist attacks as ‘heroes’,” Mr Geng said. “His case has nothing to do with human rights”.
The 47-year-old university professor began writing about abuses in Xinjiang in 1994, leading Beijing to target him with official surveillance. Chinese authorities later prohibited him from teaching or publishing.
He launched a blog in 2006, which ultimately triggered a tough government reaction.
After Ilham Tohti posted details of Uighurs who had been arrested and killed he was confined to house arrest and hit with a travel ban.
In 2014, he was sentenced to life in prison. During his trial, Ilham Tohti rejected claims he was advocating an independent Uighur state, insisting that his only goal was to safeguard his people’s basic rights. –