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Jailed Chinese activist wins prestigious rights award

epaper Updated: Oct 12, 2016 09:49 IST

GENEVA: A jailed scholar from China’s mostly-Muslim Uyghur minority was awarded the Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders on Tuesday, a move condemned by Beijing.

Ilham Tohti has been an outspoken critic of Beijing’s policies towards the Uyghur minority in their home region Xinjiang in western China, which has seen a security crackdown in recent years prompted by clashes that have killed hundreds.

In 2014, he was sentenced to life in prison for “separatism” over a site he ran that was often critical of China’s official ethnic policies.

“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,” Martin Ennals Foundation chairman Dick Oosting said in a statement.

The foundation is named after the first secretary general of Amnesty International and the prize is judged by the London-based rights group, along with Human Rights Watch and other leading organisations.

China’s foreign ministry slammed the decision, saying “there is clear evidence of IIham Tohti’s wrongdoings.”

“Ilham Tohti used to be a university professor in China. In his class, he hailed suspects who launched terrorist attacks as ‘heroes’,” it said.

First Published: Oct 12, 2016 09:49 IST