By Tenzin Monlam
DHARAMSHALA, October 11: An association of major international rights groups today honored imprisoned Professor Ilham Tohti with the Martin Ennals Award for ‘bringing to light repressive Chinese policies and Uyghur grievances’.
The professor, charged with separatism, is currently serving a life sentence after Urumqi Intermediate People's Court in Xinjiang reached a verdict in a two-day trial on September 23, 2014.
“He sought reconciliation by bringing to light repressive Chinese policies and Uyghur grievances. This is information the Chinese government has sought to keep behind a veil of silence," the group said in a statement.
Disapproving such act, Chair of the Martin Ennals foundation Dick Oosting told the Guardian, “The real shame of this situation is that by eliminating the moderate voice of Ilham Tohti the Chinese government is in fact laying the groundwork for the very extremism it says it wants to prevent.”
Dubbed as the ‘Human Rights Nobel,’ it is awarded by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and eight other major human rights groups.
Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia feels that just the nomination of professor Tohti for the annual award for rights defender puts a huge ‘huge amount of pressure on the Chinese government’.
“It won’t necessarily lead to an early release or have direct consequences but at least this kind of prize will make the international community more aware of Ilham Tohti. Every award is helpful to Chinese political prisoners and human rights defenders,” Teng Biao, an exiled human rights lawyer and friend told the Guardian.
Known as the China’s Mandala, the 46-year old taught economics at the Minzu University in Beijing.
A member of Turkic Muslim Uighur ethnic group, he has been vocal on repressive policies of Chinese government on ethnic minorities. In 2006, he launched a bilingual website uyghurbiz.net as a forum to discuss economic and social issues faced by the people of Uyghur.
Along with the professor, seven of his students were also arrested and sentenced as accomplices to the separatist movement.