City of Weimar honors China’s most prominent political prisoner

Human Rights Award is an obligation: Federal Government should advocate for the release of Ilham Tohti (Press Release)

STP action in Berlin 2009. Photo: STP

According to the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), the fact that Ilham Tohti, an Uyghur professor of economics who is currently imprisoned in China, will be honored with the Weimar Human Rights Award is an obligation for the German Federal Government to advocate for the political prisoner to be released. “We must not let this dedicated human rights activist down: Please don’t forget him! Please try to advocate for better conditions in prison and for his release,” the STP wrote in an appeal to the German Federal Government and the European Union. “Tohti must not be silenced! His voice stands for peace and understanding between the Uyghurs and China’s majority population in the crisis region of East Turkestan / Xinjiang.” The professor will be honored in Weimar on Sunday, the International Human Rights Day.

“We admire the courageous decision of the city of Weimar to honor the Uyghur human rights activist – despite the massive protest by the People’s Republic of China,” said Ulrich Delius, the STP’s director, in Göttingen on Thursday. “Tohti is a good choice. He risked his very existence, regardless of his own life, to urge China’s government to recognize the human rights of the Uyghurs.”

Following the announcement of this year’s winner, the Chinese Embassy had protested against the planned award – and tried to intervene with Weimar’s mayor, Stefan Wolf. Later, web pages about the Human Rights Award had mysteriously disappeared. “We assume that the pages were deleted by Chinese hackers,” said Delius. “It is not uncommon that the Chinese state security authorities employ hackers to attack critical websites in other countries.”

Today, Tohti is considered one of the most prominent political prisoners in China. In 2014, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for “separatism” in a show trial. The authorities had put pressure on his students for months, as an attempt to collect allegedly incriminating material to silence the unwelcome critic.