Human rights activists call on China to release Uyghur scholar
WION. 26 September 2021
Below is an article published by WION. Photo:AFP.
Human rights activists on Thursday called on China to release an Uyghur scholar, who was sentenced seven years ago to life in prison for “separatism,” for raising his voice against discrimination against Uyghurs in northwest China’s Xinjiang region, according to a media report.
“Human rights activists on Thursday called on China to release jailed Uyghur academic Ilham Tohti, sentenced seven years ago to life in prison for “separatism,” for his advocacy work in northwest China’s Xinjiang region, while his daughter says his family does not even know his whereabouts,” Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported.
An economist at the Central University for Nationalities in Beijing, Tohti pushed for a peaceful solution for Uyghur issues and equal rights for the persecuted group, submitting his proposals to the Chinese government for improving relations between Uyghurs and Han Chinese, said the report.
Tohti also ran the Uyghur Online website, formerly at uyghurbiz.net, set up in 2006 as an advisory platform for Uyghur intellectuals to promote voices from within their community.
According to the publication, the website also drew attention to the discrimination facing Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) under Beijing’s rule, as authorities tried to assimilate the ethnic group by restricting religious practises and use of the Uyghur language.
The Chinese government shut down the website several times prior to Tohti’s formal arrest in January 2014, citing the politically sensitive nature of its content. He was convicted by the Urumqi Intermediate Court on Sept. 23 of the same year following a two-day trial, the report said.
“It has been seven years since China’s unlawful imprisonment of Professor Ilham Tohti. While the international community has called on China to release him from prison … China has neither released him nor revealed his current whereabouts and health condition, ” RFA quoted Dolkun Isa, president of the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress, as saying.
“We call on the United Nations to urge China to release Professor Tohti,” he said, adding, “The European Parliament, which awarded him the 2019 Sakharov Prize, should continue to push for Professor Tohti’s freedom.”
The repression of the Uyghurs has gotten progressively worse since then. China has held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a network of detention camps since 2017, RFA reported.
Meanwhile, China has been rebuked globally for cracking down on Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang by sending them to mass detention camps, interfering in their religious activities, and subjecting them to abuse, including forced labour.
Beijing, on the other hand, has vehemently denied that it is engaged in human rights abuses against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang while reports from journalists, NGOs and former detainees have surfaced, highlighting the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) brutal crackdown on the ethnic community.