Uighur Genocide: Jailed Activist’s Daughter Awarded EU Top Human Rights Prize

Written by | Monday, December 23rd, 2019

The daughter of jailed Uighur intellectual Ilham Tohti received the European Parliament Sakharov Prize on his behalf earlier on Wednesday (18 December). Jewher Ilham said she did not even know if her father was still alive years after he was sentenced to life imprisonment for “separatism” in 2014. As the European Parliament called for Tohti to be released “immediately and unconditionally”, his daughter says she hopes the EU’s top human rights award would help her father. The awarding of the Parliament’s Sakharov Prize comes as the United Nations estimates that one million Uighurs – an ethnic minority mostly living in the northwest Chinese state of Xinjiang – are detained in re-educational internment camps.
And while the European Parliament hailed the former economics professor as a “voice of moderation and reconciliation” during the announcement of the award in October, Beijing denounced the move as interference into the country’s internal affairs, referring to Tohti as a “terrorist”. China has been faced with growing international criticism for setting up an extensive network of camps in the Xinjiang region, which is the main pillar of the Communist regime’s systematic campaign of social and cultural reeducation of the predominantly Muslim Uighur population that is forced to reflect China’s majority Han culture.
“The last time I heard about my father was 2017, that was also the last time a family visit was granted to my father,” Ilham told the media before receiving the prestigious Sakharov Price in Strasbourg, France. “So that was also the last time my family saw him. I don’t even know if he is alive.” Experts and human rights groups claim more than one million Uighurs and people of other mostly Muslim ethnic minorities have been incarcerated in the camps in the tightly controlled region. In rare coordinated move, a group of 15 Western ambassadors based in Beijing, spearheaded by Canada, are seeking a meeting with the top official in China’s restive Xinjiang region, demanding explanation of alleged rights abuses against ethnic Uighurs.

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