By Lobsang Tenchoe
DHARAMSALA, Oct 11: Imprisoned Uighur economics professor Ilham Tohti who is serving a life sentence in China for advocating ‘separatism’ has been adjudged the winner of 2016 Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders by a group of leading human rights organizations.
To bring renewed attention on a case that has brought stout international censure, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and eight other human rights groups will bestow the award to Tohti at an award ceremony to be held in Geneva, Switzerland on Tuesday evening, reports The Washington Post, Oct 11.
“Tohti has sought reconciliation by bringing to light repressive Chinese policies and Uighur grievances. This is information the Chinese government has sought to keep behind a veil of silence,” the report quoted the rights groups as saying in their statement.
“He remains a voice of moderation and reconciliation in spite of how he has been treated,” it added.
His sentence was condemned by numerous western governments and the European Union. Hundreds of scholars have also petitioned China’s totalitarian communist regime to release him earlier in January.
“The award not only duly recognizes Prof. Ilham Tohti’s courageous work promoting minority rights and dialogues between Hans and Uighurs, it also highlights the Chinese government’s increasingly harsh punishment against its critics. Instead of reacting angrily to the news, the Chinese government should release Ilham Tohti and reverse its repressive policies in Xinjiang,” said Maya Wang, a Hong Kong-based researcher with Human Rights Watch.
Tohti, a member of the Turkic Muslim Uighur ethnic group, was given a life sentence following a hushed up two-day trial on charges of separatism in September 2014.
The professor took to the internet and ran a site, Uyghurbiz.net to promote discussion about the economic, social and developmental issues faced by Uighurs.
The communist regime, in a bid to strengthen their case against Tohti, also arrested seven of his students. They were accused of forming a group to split Xinjiang from China.