Uyghur activist receives Sakharov Prize

People hold signs supporting China’s persecuted Uyghur population.
(Photo: ChinaAid)

(Strasbourg, France—Dec. 18, 2019) The European Parliament has awarded a freedom prize to jailed Uyghur activist Ilham Tohti.

Tohti is an economist and academic who critiqued China’s financial policies toward Xinjiang. Concerned about the plight of his people, he formed Uighur Online, and he published pieces on their struggle. For his work, he is a renowned scholar on Uyghur issues.

China, however, accused him of being a separatist and inciting “ethnic hatred” and sentenced him to life in prison.

The European Parliament announced yesterday they chose to award Tohti with the 2019 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. On Twitter, the Parliament said Tohti had worked “tirelessly in defence of the rights of China’s Uyghur minority….”

Jewher Ilham, Tohti’s daughter, will accept the prize on his behalf.

The Sakharov Prize is named after Andrei Sakharov, a Soviet dissident and scientist who worked for human rights.

For several years now, China’s treatment of Uyghurs, a Turkic group living in Xinjiang, has come under scrutiny. More than 1 million Uyghurs have been placed in a network of camps on either falsified or non-existent charges. Camp survivors have reported torture, starvation, and forced labor, even though China has said they are vocational training facilities.

ChinaAid would like to thank the European Parliament for their recognition of Tohti’s work and call on China to immediately and unconditionally free him.

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