Charge: Separatism Sentence: Life imprisonment Location: Xinjiang No. 1 Prison
Ilham Tohti was a noted Uyghur academic and economics professor at the Central Nationalities (Minzu) University in Beijing. Professor Tohti also ran the Uighurbiz website, a forum in Mandarin Chinese to discuss economic, social and cultural issues facing the Uyghur people in China.
A November 21, 2014 appeal hearing was held behind closed doors at the Urumchi Number 1 Detention Center in violation of normal procedure, according to Professor Tohti’s lawyers. The appeal was turned down.
The Working Group cited China’s violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in Mr. Tohti’s case—in particular, articles 9, 10, 11, 18, 19, 20 and 21.
Seven of Ilham Tohti’s students were given prison sentences of up to eight years in December 2014. Perhat Halmurat, Shohret Nijat, Mutellip Imin, Abduqeyyum Ablimit, Atikem Rozi, Akbar Imin and Luo Yuwei (an ethnic Yi) worked as volunteers on Professor Tohti’s website, Uighurbiz.
In this filmed interview with family friend and Tibetan activist, Woeser, Ilham Tohti explains the pressures he and his family have faced due to his work.
Uyghurs have been noticeably marginalized from the regional economy. Chinese government investment in the region has been rapid and extensive, especially since the adoption of Western Development policies in 2000.
The Chinese state has highlighted the region as a provider of natural resources to high-energy consumption areas of eastern China. The Chinese government has also prioritized pipeline construction from Central Asia through East Turkestan to eastern China as another source of energy.
The Silk Road Economic Belt initiative, part of China’s “One Belt, One Road,” proposed in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, is a large-scale development project to strengthen ties between China and Central Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Massive development in the region will have the potential to destroy Uyghur communities and deteriorate Uyghur culture. There is also potential for greater discrimination of Uyghurs, as there is no mention of protecting Uyghurs from economic inequity under the terms of the initiative. Read the Financial Times’ three part series on the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative: Part 1; Part 2 and Part 3.
The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) calls on the European Parliament to award Ilham Tohti the 2016 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Professor Ilham Tohti has been a consistent voice for the equitable treatment of Uyghurs in China and in doing so has made an outstanding contribution to human rights.
The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) is concerned a new Counter-Terrorism Law adopted by the People's Republic of China (PRC) on December 27, 2015, and effective as of January 1, 2016, is a mandate for the Chinese government to commit human rights violations against the Uyghur people in East Turkestan.
The WUC and UHRP have jointly submitted an alternative report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) for consideration during the 56th session of the Committee from November 9 to December 9, 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland.