Ilham Tohti is a well-respected university professor and human rights defender, known for his moderate views on ethnic issues in China. Yet in January 2014 he was taken from his home in Beijing by police. For five months, family and friends were not told where he was. He was denied food for 10 days and had his feet in shackles for 20 days straight. Then in September 2014 he was given a life sentence –supposedly for stirring up ethnic hatred.
Ilham comes from the Uighur community, a largely Muslim ethnic group that faces widespread discrimination in his home region, the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Tensions between ethnic groups have been rising there in recent years, as have the number of violent attacks.
Through his writing and lectures, he also highlighted government practices that discriminated against many aspects of Uighurs' lives. But now he faces a lifetime in jail. He's being cruelly punished for peacefully challenging the Chinese government's policies towards ethnic minorities. Ilham is a prisoner of conscience, not a criminal.
Demand action. Tell China to release Ilham Tohti immediately and unconditionally.
To: Fan Jun, Director, Prison Administration Bureau of Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region
I am writing to express my concern about the continued detention of Ilham Tohti, who is being cruelly punished for peacefully defending the rights of Chinese minorities.
I ask that you immediately release Ilham Tohti without delay or conditions on his freedom.