Jailed Chi­nese ac­tivist wins top rights prize

The Myanmar Times - - World -

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. –

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