Uyghur Scholar Ilham Tohti's Daughter Calls For His Release on Sixth Anniversary of His Jailing

The daughter of jailed Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti called on Wednesday for his immediate release from a Chinese prison, speaking on the sixth anniversary of his sentencing to a life term in prison for “separatism” for his advocacy for greater rights for the Uyghur people.Tohti, a former professor of economics at the Central University for Nationalities in Beijing, was sentenced by the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court in northwestern China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) on Sept. 23, 2014, despite having worked for more than two decades to foster dialogue and understanding between Uyghurs and Han Chinese.“For the past six years, I’ve tried my best—everything I can—to fight for his release. [Now], we need to see what we can all do together to get my father out,” Tohti’s daughter Jewher Ilham said, speaking in a panel discussion hosted by the Ilham Tohti Institute.  “We need to find some sort of way to ask the [Chinese] government to review my father’s case, and to ask for a change in his verdict. The best circumstance would be releasing my father immediately,” she said.Ilham said she recently learned that Chinese authorities had played a video for students at Tohti’s former university presenting “evidence” that he was guilty of the offenses for which he was jailed. That video has not yet been publicly released, though, Ilham said, and may have been edited to “brainwash” students to believe that Tohti is now where he deserves to be.“If that so-called evidence is not fabricated, and not just used for brainwashing, I would like to be ‘brainwashed’ too, so I don’t have to have these sleepless nights and figure out why my innocent father is still locked up after six years,” Ilham said.'World is waking up'Also speaking on the panel, Wuer Kaixi—an ethnic Uyghur and veteran of the 1989 student-led Tiananmen Square democracy movement—said that now, with the spread of COVID-19 in a pandemic beginning in China, the world is slowly “waking up” to the global threat the country poses.“[All along], I have been telling the world the simple message that the Chinese communist regime is the very threat to the civilization we’re living in," Wuer Kaixi said.“The little information we have learned about the Uyghurs has also contributed to the world waking up,” he said, adding, “It aches my heart to say that more than one million Uyghurs [have been] rounded up in concentration camps in the 21st century. The little information we learned about the Uyghurs has also contributed to the world waking up.”Human rights groups and foreign government have repeatedly voiced concern in recent years over the situation in the XUAR, where authorities are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect ideas” in a vast network of internment camps since April 2017.China has sought to justify its network of camps as voluntary “vocational centers” despite reporting by RFA which has found that detainees are mostly held against their will in poor conditions, where they are forced to endure inhumane treatment and political indoctrination.Though momentum has been gained in the past few years in calling the world’s attention to the plight of Ilham Tohti and the Uyghur population in China, much more remains to be done, Jewher Ilham said in an interview with RFA’s Uyghur Service on Wednesday.“Yesterday, the House passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which is good news. And previously two months ago, the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act was also passed and signed by the president,” Ilham said, referring to recent moves by the U.S. Congress and President Trump to sanction Chinese officials responsible for abuses in Xinjiang.“But until every innocent soul in the prisons, in the concentration camps, is released, my answer is that this is not nearly enough,” Ilham said. “I would like them all to gain their freedom and be reunited with their families again.”Reported by Mihray Abral for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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UK Parliament Launches Enquiry Into Xinjiang Internment Camps, Questions British Business Ties

Britain’s parliament on Wednesday opened an investigation into British business connections with China’s internment camps and use of forced labor in its Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, vowing to find ways to end British firms’ support of repression in the region, media and other sources said.The enquiry, launched by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons, will also look for ways to strengthen atrocity-prevention mechanisms of Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and to support ethnic Uyghurs driven into exile, sources said.The UK move follows calls by the European Union and the U.S. to investigate conditions in Beijing’s sprawling network of camps in the region, where authorities are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities since April 2017.Washington and others are also taking measures to block imports of suspect goods and to sanction and hold to account Chinese officials responsible for human rights violations in the XUAR.China’s treatment of its mostly Muslim ethnic Uyghur community “utterly abhorrent,” Layla Moran—foreign affairs spokeswoman for Parliament’s Liberal Democrats—said in a Sept. 16 statement, adding that the UK government now has a duty to act and impose sanctions to help stop the abuses.A Sept. 8 letter to China’s ambassador to the UK signed by 135 members of parliament had already signaled British lawmakers’ “extreme concern” over the situation in the XUAR, where authorities are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps since April 2017.China has sought to justify its network of camps as voluntary “vocational centers” despite reporting by RFA which has found that detainees are mostly held against their will in poor conditions, where they are forced to endure inhumane treatment and political indoctrination.“The UK has not done nearly enough,” Moran added in a Sept. 15 opinion piece in Britain’s newspaper The Times. “How any [government minister can watch the videos from the Xinjiang camps and decide that a course of relative inaction is beyond me.”“It is time the UK worked to regain our status as a country that defends and promotes human rights internationally,” Moran said.“The mass detention of Uighurs in Xinjiang has horrifying echoes of the 1930s,” said Conservative Party member and investigating committee chair Tom Tugendhat, quoted on Sept. 16 in the Hindustan Times. “There have been similar atrocities since, and each time the world has promised to never allow such violations to happen again.”“And yet, we now have clear, undeniable evidence of the persecution of more than one million people in these so-called re-education camps,” Tugendhat said, adding that his committee will look into ways the government can use to discourage private businesses in Britain from contributing to Beijing’s abuses in Xinjiang.The European Union on Monday called on China to allow independent observers to visit the XUAR to investigate China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, while in Washington the Trump administration announced new customs actions to block imports of Chinese products believed to be produced with forced labor.The Withhold Release Orders, measures intended to prevent goods suspected to have been made with forced labor from entering the United States, targeted three entities from Xinjiang and one from Anhui province in eastern China.Meanwhile, calls are growing in the U.S. for a boycott of Disney’s $200 million live-action film “Mulan,” shot partly in Xinjiang’s ancient Silk Road City of Turpan, with rights groups and others citing the new film’s links to entities responsible for repressing Uyghurs in the XUAR.Reported by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Continue Reading UK Parliament Launches Enquiry Into Xinjiang Internment Camps, Questions British Business Ties