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Press Release: WUC Calls for the Release of Uyghur Scholar Ilham Tohti

Press Release: WUC Calls for the Release of Uyghur Scholar Ilham Tohti

Press Release – For immediate Release
25 September 2023
Contact: World Uyghur Congress
+49 89 5432 1999 or [email protected]

On the nine-year anniversary of the conviction and life sentence of Uyghur scholar and professor Ilham Tohti, the World Uyghur Congress renews its call for the immediate release of Ilham Tohti and the countless Uyghur scholars currently detained.

‘’Ilham Tohti’s life imprisonment is the first sign of the repressive policies to be implemented in East Turkistan’’, said WUC President, Dolkun Isa. ‘’His fate warned the entire Uyghur society that even peaceful and moderate voices were no longer tolerated.’’

Ilham Tohti, a renowned Uyghur economics professor and advocate for the rights of the Uyghur people, constructively raised numerous issues facing the Uyghur people and worked diligently to foster dialogue and understanding between Uyghurs and Han for over two decades. Professor Tohti established in 2006, a website that encouraged conversation between Uyghurs and Chinese as a means of reconciliation between the two groups.

He was arrested in January 2014, and sentenced to life in prison on September 23 for “inciting separatism” after just a two-day trial—a trial and legal process marred by irregularities including restricting his access to legal representation for six months following detention, denial of the presentation of evidence by prosecutors, and the denial of witnesses called to testify on his behalf. 

The international community decried his unjust life imprisonment and he has since received multiple prestigious awards. Ilham Tohti still remains an inspirational figure for the Uyghur community and a symbol of the peaceful struggle for basic rights. His arrest and life imprisonment proved to be a tragic turning point in how the Chinese government has reacted to dissident voices. Professor Tohti’s detention proved to be a warning to all Uyghur academics that criticism, or mere conversation, about state policy was off limits and seen as a challenge to Party power.

Recent news of life imprisonment of Uyghur scholar, Dr. Rahile Dawut has also, once again brought the attention of the global community to the fate of Uyghur scholars and intellectuals. In light of the upcoming Universal Periodic Review on China, the World Uyghur Congress urges all states to table strong recommendations and highlight the disappearance and arbitrary detention of Uyghur and Turkic scholars.