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European Parliament: Rights Award Boosts Pressure on China

Sakharov Prize to Uyghur Scholar Spotlights Xinjiang Crisis

In this Feb. 4, 2013 file photo, Ilham Tohti, an outspoken scholar of China's Uighur minority, gestures as he speaks during an interview at his home in Beijing, China.  © 2014 AP Photo/Andy Wong, File
(Brussels) – The European Parliament should use its 2019 Sakharov Prize, awarded to the unjustly detained Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, to significantly increase pressure on China to release him, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the European Parliament leadership. China has arbitrarily detained 1 million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in its northwestern Xinjiang region.

The European Parliament should also work with European Union institutions, governments, and national parliaments to press for urgent United Nations access to Xinjiang to report on serious human rights violations.

“While the Sakharov Prize might bring some comfort and hope to Professor Tohti’s family, it’s a powerful reminder that China is getting away with outrageous abuses in Xinjiang,” said Lotte Leicht, EU director at Human Rights Watch. “EU members should recommit themselves to challenging China’s ruthless crackdown on dissent and pressing for the release of people wrongfully detained.”

The European Parliament announced that it was awarding the 2019 Sakharov Prize – its highest award for human rights work – to Tohti on October 24, 2019. Tohti was prosecuted in a sham trial on baseless charges of “separatism” and given a life sentence in September 2014.



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