Posts Tagged ‘Ilham Tohti’

Chinese sensitivity again on display re human rights awards

August 29, 2020

Kunal Gaurav in Republic World of 29 August 2020 illustrates again how extremely sensitive China remains with regard to human rights awards, unwittingly underlining the strong symbolic value they can have.

China

China has warned Norway against awarding Nobel Peace Prize to pro-democracy activists of Hong Kong, saying it doesn’t want to see the politicisation of the award. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was on a rare visit to Norway as the country prepares to take up the rotational seat of United Nations Security Council, of which China is a permanent member, for 2021-22.

“I would only say one thing: In the past, today, and in future, China will firmly reject any attempt by anyone to use the Nobel Peace Prize to interfere in China’s internal affairs,” Wang told reporters when asked about the possibility.

The decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Dalai Lama, head monk of Tibetan Buddhism, for his willingness to compromise and seek reconciliation despite brutal violations had irked China. Later, the Nobel Foundation awarded the prize to Lui Xiaobo for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. The decision immediately froze diplomatic relations between Norway and China, which resumed in December 2016.

Hong Kong has been the epicentre of pro-democracy protests and China enforced a controversial security law which has allegedly undermined the autonomy of the region. Several countries have revoked the extradition treaty with the semi-autonomous region, calling the draconian law as a flagrant violation of Sino-British agreement after which the city returned to Chinese rule.

According to a Hong Kong daily, the foreign minister said that the Chinese government doesn’t want to see anyone politicise the Nobel Peace Prize. Calling on Norway to cherish the current relationship, Wang said that the bilateral relationship can continue to develop in a sustained and sound manner if both parties can “continue to respect each other and treat each other as equals.”

At a press briefing on August 28, Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide said that the leaders had an extensive discussion ranging from COVID-19 response to international trade and the free-trade agreement. She said that they also had extensive discussions on human rights, an issue of international concern given China’s history and ongoing crackdown in Xinjiang.

https://www.republicworld.com/world-news/china/china-warns-norway-against-awarding-nobel-peace-prize-to-hong-kong-act.html

Martin Ennals Award laureates rally to demand freedom for their imprisoned fellow award-winners

April 24, 2020

On 21 April 2020, – for the first time – a group of 14 former winners of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders rallied around their follow laureates lingering in jail.  They signed a joint letter to the Permanent Representatives to the UN of Bahrain, China, Iran and the United Arab Emirates:

Your Excellencies:

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, we the undersigned, winners of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, are calling for the release of all imprisoned human rights defenders around the world, who are at tremendous risk due to the virus. We add our voices to the calls of international leaders, of hundreds of civil society organizations and thousands of mobilized citizens, to grant clemency towards vulnerable prisoners during this health crisis, including our fellow award-winners who are imprisoned for their defense of human rights in four countries:

…..

Today we are deeply concerned about the continued imprisonment of defenders across the world, despite their exposure to and high risk of contracting COVID-19. Numerous health authorities and human rights organisations have denounced the risks of COVID-19 for prisoners held in crowded conditions. …[ See e.g. also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/23/civicus-and-600-ngos-dont-violate-human-rights-while-responding-to-covid-19/; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/14/un-guidelines-for-use-of-emergency-powers-in-time-of-covid-19-pandemic/%5D

Despite the tragedy of lives lost and significant economic damage, we believe this crisis will also present opportunities for a better world. Now is the time to remedy the unjust detention of these individuals. By releasing our brothers and sisters – Ilham, Ahmed, Nabeel, Abdullah, and Nasrin – the leaders of your nations would demonstrate their capacity for mercy and responsibility. We therefore call on your government to free our fellow Martin Ennals Award winners immediately, as well as all human rights defenders in detainment, so that their physical integrity is ensured, and they can receive appropriate medical and psychological support.

 Signed:

Huda al-Sarari
Yemen, Laureate 2020

Norma Librada Ledezma
Mexico, Finalist 2020

Sizani Ngubane
South Africa, Finalist 2020

Abdul Aziz Mohamat
Sudan, Laureate 2019

Eren Keskin
Turkey, Finalist 2019

Marino Córdoba
Colombia, Finalist 2019

Mohamed Zaree
Egypt, Laureate 2017

Karla Avelar
El Salvador, Finalist 2017

Asmaou Diallo
Guinea, Finalist 2015

Adilur Rahman Khan
Bangladesh, Finalist 2014

Mona Seif
Egypt, Finalist 2013

Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Finalist 2012

Arnold Tsunga
Zimbabwe, Laureate 2006

Clement Nwankwo
Nigeria, Laureate 1996

—-

https://www.martinennalsaward.org/the-mea-winners-are-calling-for-the-release-of-imprisoned-hrd-including-their-fellow-award-winner/

Universal human rights apply to Ilham Tohti? China and EU: disagree

October 26, 2019

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his EU counterpart Federica Mogherini in Beijing on Tuesday. Photo: Xinhua
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his EU counterpart Federica Mogherini in Beijing on Tuesday. Photo: Xinhua

Keegan Elmer  in the South China Morning Post of 25/26 October 2019 reports that Chinese officials have told their European counterparts that human rights should be measured by the people’s well-being and rejected the EU’s support for the “universal” values enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The statements issued by both sides after a meeting between the EU’s foreign affairs chief and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi underlined their disagreements on human rights by recording their discussions on the topic in markedly different ways. While the Europeans focused on Mogherini’s support for “universality”, the Chinese statement emphasised her call for mutual respect and comments that there were “different approaches” to the issue.

According China, Mogherini had acknowledged that there are “different approaches to safeguarding and promoting human rights” and accepted that there were “problems with the human rights situation in European countries”. It continued that she had agreed to continue cooperation and exchanges with China “on the basis of mutual respect”, adding: “The EU does not intend to act as the ‘teacher’ of other countries on human rights issues.”

But the EU’s account of the meeting did not refer to Wang’s comments and said Mogherini had “underlined to the Chinese leadership that the EU will continue to stand up for the universality, interdependence and indivisibility of human rights based on the UN Charter and standards”.

China extraordinary sensitivity to ‘interference’ of any level into what it considers its domestic affairs is well-known. I touched upon this hot’ topic’ in my own 2011 article “The international human rights movement: not perfect, but a lot better than many governments think” in the book ‘NGOs in China and Europe’ (exceptionally also published in Chinese!): Yuwen Li (ed), Ashgate, 2011, pp 287-304 (ISBN: 978-1-4094-1959-4).

On the same day that the pair met in Beijing, the European Parliament awarded its 2019 Sakharov Human Rights Prize to human rights defender Ilham Tohti, who is serving a life sentence. The statement announcing the award called for his immediate release and said “for over two decades, he has worked tirelessly to foster dialogue and understanding between Uygurs and other Chinese people”. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/24/lham-tohti-now-also-awarded-the-2019-sakharov-prize/]. Predictably, during a press conference on Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said the parliament had “given a prize to a criminal”. “I don’t know how much meaning, value or influence [the prize] has,” said Hua. “I only know Tohti is a criminal that has been sentenced by a Chinese court.

Neither the Chinese nor the EU have said whether Tohti’s case or the situation in Xinjiang – where Beijing is accused of detaining a million mainly Uygur Muslims in re-education camps – had been discussed.

lham Tohti now also awarded the EU’s 2019 Sakharov Prize 

October 24, 2019

Ilham Tohti, renowned Uyghur economist fighting for rights of China’s Uyghur minority, awarded 2019 Sakharov Prize      

Ilham Tohti, renowned Uyghur economist fighting for rights of China’s Uyghur minority, awarded 2019 Sakharov Prize © AP Images/Andy WONG  

It was just accounced that Uyghur human rights defender Ilham Tohti has been awarded this year’s European Parliament Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. European Parliament President David Sassoli announced the laureate in the Strasbourg chamber at noon on Thursday, following an earlier decision by the Conference of Presidents: “I am very pleased to announce that the European Parliament has chosen Ilham Tohti as the winner of the 2019 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Tohti has dedicated his life to advocating for the rights of the Uyghur minority in China. Despite being a voice of moderation and reconciliation, he was sentenced to life in prison following a show trial in 2014. By awarding this prize, we strongly urge the Chinese government to release Tohti and we call for the respect of minority rights in China”. The Sakharov award ceremony will be held in the European Parliament’s hemicycle in Strasbourg on 18 December. For more on the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and similar awards, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/sakharov-prize-for-freedom-of-thought.

This is the 6th major human rights award that Ilham Tohti has picked up:

2014   Freedom to Write Award (PEN)

2016   Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders

2017   Prize for Freedom (Liberal Int’l)

2017   Weimar Human Rights Award

2019   Vaclav Havel Prize for Human Rights (PACE)

2019   Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

It will be interesting to see how the Chinese government is going to react as it tends to be very sensitive on awards for its human rights defenders, think of the Nobel Peace Prize for Liu Xiaobo on 2010 or the reaction of the Chiane government against the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights giving the MEA in 2016 [https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-rights-un-idUSKCN12C0X2]. Another example is: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/11/cyber-attacks-on-city-of-weimar-for-awarding-ilham-tohti/

The EU lists 3 finalists for the 2019 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

October 9, 2019

Following a joint vote by MEPs in the Foreign Affairs and Development committees of the European Parliament on Tuesday, the finalists for the 2019 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought are:

The European Parliament’s Conference of Presidents (President and political groups’ leaders) will select the final laureate on Thursday 24 October. The prize itself will be awarded in a ceremony in Parliament’s hemicycle in Strasbourg on 18 December.

For more on the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and two other awards in the name of Sakharove, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/sakharov-prize-for-freedom-of-thought

For last year’s award see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/27/ukrainian-filmmaker-sentsov-wins-eus-sakharov-prize-for-human-rights/

Several people who spoke to RFE/RL on condition of anonymity expressed surprise that Navalny had not been shortlisted.

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20191008IPR63719/sakharov-prize-2019-meps-choose-the-finalists

https://www.rferl.org/a/russian-activist-navalny-not-on-sakharov-prize-shortlist/30206166.html

Ilham Tohti and Balkan youth group share 2019 Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize

October 1, 2019

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has awarded jailed Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti the 2019 Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, making him the first dissident from China to receive the prize. Tohti, 49, shares the prize  with the Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) – a group that brings together youths from across the Balkans to promote reconciliation – on Monday at ceremony in Strasbourg, France on the opening day of PACE’s autumn plenary session.
PACE said in a statement after a live broadcast on September 30 that actions taken by the two prize winners carry “a message of hope for all those who aspire to build a better world, one where the dignity, rights, and basic liberties of everyone are respected and guaranteed.

Tohti is an advocate for China’s Uyghur Muslim minority who was sentenced to life in prison by Beijing in 2014 on separatism charges. YIHR is a Balkan-based group promoting reconciliation through building connections between young people from different ethnic groups, regions, and countries.

The award was accepted on Tohti’s behalf by Enver Can of the Ilham Tohti Initiative, who said that while the prize honors individuals and organizations, “it also recognizes a whole population in giving the entire Uyghur people a voice,” and vowed to continue efforts to free the jailed professor. Speaking to RFA’s Uyghur Service on Monday, Tohti’s daughter, Jewher Ilham, welcomed the award and expressed appreciation to Europe-based rights groups—particularly the Ilham Tohti Initiative—for advancing her father’s case.

Enver Can called the Vaclav Havel Prize “tremendous recognition of Ilham Tohti’s efforts to help his people.”

After Tohti was shortlisted for the seventh Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize last month [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/29/ilham-tohti-one-of-the-finalists-for-the-vaclav-havel-human-rights-prize/], China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a press conference that PACE should “withdraw the nomination and stop supporting separatist and terrorist forces.”

Tohti was awarded the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award in 2014, the Martin Ennals Award in 2016, the Liberal International Prize for Freedom in 2017, and Freedom House’s Freedom Award in 2019. The jailed professor is also a nominee for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
——–

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/award-09302019133018.html

https://www.rferl.org/a/council-of-europe-awards-joint-havel-prize-to-uyghur-activist-tohti-balkan-youth-group/30191297.html

Ilham Tohti one of the finalists for the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize

August 29, 2019

Photo courtesy of Martin Ennals Award

Ilham Tohti, a Uyghur scholar who has been serving a life sentence in Chinese prison since 2014, has been chosen as a finalist for the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize.  [see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/vaclav-havel-prize-for-human-rights-pace].  The Germany-based Ilham Tohti Initiative e.V. (ITI) had nominated Prof. Tohti to the Prize on April 29, with support of four other human rights activists and NGOs. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/15/today-ilham-tohti-completes-his-fourth-year-in-chinese-detention/].

The decision as to the Prize winner will be made by the Selection Panel on 29 September 2019, and its name will be announced in the Chamber of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, on 30 September 2019 at 12:30pm. The award ceremony for the Prize will subsequently take place in the presence of all three shortlisted candidates. Two other candidates, who have also been shortlisted are Mr Buzurgmehr Yorov (Tajikistan) and the Youth Initiative for Human Rights.

The UNPO is currently campaigning for Mr. Tohti to also be awarded the Sakharov Prize saying that such prizes are an excellent way in which the international community can continue to show support for the Uyghur people in the face of hostile oppression.

China’s predictable reaction came quickly: “Beijing slammed on Thursday the nomination of a jailed academic from China’s Uighur minority for one of Europe’s top human rights awards, saying it equated to “supporting terrorism”.

https://unpo.org/article/21639

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/china-says-uighur-award-nomination-is-supporting-terrorism

Three NGOs urge you to nominate Ilham Tohti for the Rafto Prize

January 29, 2019

Photo courtesy of the Radio Free Asia

On 28 January, 2019, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and Norwegian Uyghur Committee (NUK) announced that they have nominated the Chinese human rights defender Ilham Tohti for the Rafto Prize. With the completion of five years of his arrest, the organisations believe his peaceful trajectory in defense of the freedom and fully enjoyment of human rights by the Uyghur population in China is deserving of this prestigious prize. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/15/today-ilham-tohti-completes-his-fourth-year-in-chinese-detention/.

[Ilham Tohti served as a professor of economics at Minzu University in Beijing where he specialized in research focused on Uyghur-Han relations, China’s ethnic policies and East Turkistan. Alongside his scholarship and teaching, Ilham is revered for establishing and maintaining Uyghur Online, a website dedicated to promoting Uyghur human rights and improved relations between Uyghur and Han Chinese people. Professor Tohti criticised oppressive policies against Uyghurs and wrote extensively on constructive approaches to overcome unequal treatment between ethnic groups. Notably, he called for dialogue and reconciliation, using his web platform as the primary vehicle. For his efforts, he was arrested by Chinese authorities on January 15, 2014. Despite the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention finding his detention to be arbitrary in March 2014, Tohti was sentenced to life in prison in September of that year on charges of “separatism” after just a two-day trial. The legal process involving Tohti was met with significant issues throughout. His lawyers were unable to meet him for six months following the initial arrest, his defense team was not provided with complete evidence by the prosecutor, nor were their requested witnesses allowed to testify during the trial. Ilham has been serving his life sentence since December 2014 at Urumqi’s No. 1 Prison. Since then, he has been allowed very few visits from his family. Complicating this has been his continued detention in Urumqi, despite his family living in Beijing – a likely punitive move from Beijing. ChinaChange has noted that Tohti has been held in solitary confinement until at least early 2016 and has been denied the right to communicate with family and friends aside from minimal visits. The WUC gathered 132 scholars and 19 civil society organisations in an open letter to urge the Chinese government to release Ilham Tohti from his arbitrary detention of the five-year anniversary of his arrest in January 2019.]  

In 2014 Mr. Tohti was awarded the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. On October 11, 2016, Tohti was awarded the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. In 2017 he received the Weimar Prize (https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/05/uyghur-human-rights-defender-ilham-tohti-wins-also-weimar-human-rights-prize/). He was also nominated for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize in 2016. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/15/martin-ennals-award-2016-relive-the-ceremony-in-13-minutes-or-in-full/

The WUC,the UNPO and the NUK encourage scholars and organisations to join in nominating Ilham Tohti. The deadline for nominations is Friday, February 1st. As the situation in East Turkistan continues to deteriorate, with more than one million innocent Uyghurs arbitrarily detained in internment camps and the Uyghur people facing unparalleled repression, Ilham Tohti’s life and work stands as an inspiration to continue the peaceful struggle for peace, understanding

https://unpo.org/article/21350

 

China and the UN Human Rights Council: really Win-Win?

March 7, 2018

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated on Wednesday 7 March that China’s actions on human rights did not match its words and the level of respect for basic liberties remained low in the country. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein did so in his annual report on human rights in the world to the UN Human Rights Council, “President Xi Jinping has called for ‘people-centred development for win-win outcomes as part of a community of shared future for mankind’, a commendable ambition. Sadly, China’s global ambitions on are seemingly not mirrored by its record at home,” he said.

My office continues to receive urgent appeals regarding arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, ill-treatment and discrimination, emanating from defenders, lawyers, legislators, booksellers, and members of communities such as Tibetans and Uyghurs,” he added. Hussein said many of the cases involved people fighting against economic, social and cultural injustices such as corruption, illegal seizure of land and forced evictions or destruction of cultural sites.

Before the start of  the current session of the UN Human Rights Council twenty NGOs had called on all member states to hold China accountable at the UN Human Rights Council, appears from a piece by the ISHR on 26 February 2018

In a private letter sent to select UN Member States, the NGOs called for clear and concrete actions to denounce China’s current rollback in respect for human rights at the UN Human Rights Council.

The organisations highlight five cases of human rights defenders that would benefit from further pressure being brought to bear on the Chinese government. They include:

  • Liu Xia, a poet kept under house arrest after the death of her husband, Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, in July 2017
  • Wang Quanzhang, a rights lawyer held incommunicado since 9 July 2015
  • Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen arbitrarily detained in China since he vanished from Thailand in October 2015
  • Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan cultural rights and education advocate who has been detained more than two years on charges of inciting separatism (a press release by a group of UN experts on 21 February)
  • Yu Wensheng, a prominent human rights lawyer disbarred, then arbitrarily detained, in January 2018.

The organisations urge the governments to:

….This year is particularly important, as human rights defenders inside and outside China prepare for the country’s next Universal Periodic Review, scheduled for November 2018. The letter to governments concludes: ‘For human rights defenders to have the courage to engage in this important process, with all the risks that it entails, it’s critical that they know that they are not alone’.

(Amnesty International, China Labour Bulletin, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Human Rights in China, Human Rights Watch, the International Campaign for Tibet, the International Commission of Jurists,  the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, the International Service for Human Rights, Lawyers for Lawyers, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, PEN America, Swedish PEN, the Tibet Advocacy Coalition (comprised of the International Tibet Network Secretariat, Students for a Free Tibet, Tibet Initiative Deutschland, Tibet Justice Center, and Tibetan Youth Association in Europe), and the World Uyghur Congress.)

https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/03/05/chinas-win-win-resolution-anything

http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/china-shows-little-respect-for-human-rights-un-high-commissioner-118030701132_1.html

https://www.ishr.ch/news/china-ngos-call-states-hold-china-accountable-un-human-rights-council

Today Ilham Tohti completes his fourth year in Chinese detention

January 15, 2018

Rightly Front Line Defenders reminds us that today, 15 January 2018, Ilham Tohti completed his fourth year in Chinese detention. The human rights defender, economics professor and advocate for the rights of China’s Uyghur minority was arrested following a raid on his home on 15 January 2014. In the course of his incarceration, Ilham Tohti has been subjected to recurring violations of international human rights standards with regard to detention conditions such as limitations of family visits, intercepted communication, solitary confinement, deprivation of food and intimidation. Ilham Tohti’s family and colleagues have also been subjected to judicial harassment. 

Ilham Tohti <https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/fr/profile/ilham-tohti>  formerly lectured as a professor at the Central University for Nationalities in Beijing. He has researched, taught, and written numerous articles on topics related to human rights violations in China’s northwestern Xinjiang Province, the homeland of China’s sharply repressed Uyghur minority. In 2006, the human rights defender founded Uyghur Online, a Chinese-language website for the dissemination of  Uyghur-centric news. Across these platforms, Ilham Tohti regularly criticised the exclusion of China’s Uyghur population from Chinese development, and encouraged greater awareness of Uyghur status and treatment in Chinese society. For these actions, Ilham Tohti was declared a “separatist” by the Chinese state and ultimately given a life sentence in prison.

Following his arrest on 15 January 2014, Ilham Tohti was tried at the Urumqi City Intermediate People’s Court on 23 September 2014. He was found guilty of “separatism” and sentenced to life in prison. Seven of the human rights defender’s students were arrested in the same year, and his niece was arrested in early 2016 for possessing photos of and articles written by the defender on her phone. On 10 October 2016, Ilham Tohti was granted the Martin Ennals Human Rights Award. {see earlier posts on Ilham https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/ilham-tohti/]