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China: Release Ilham Tohti immediately

University professor Ilham Tohti has been jailed for life for “separatism” despite trying to bridge differences between ethnic communities

Ilham Tohti is a well-respected university professor, known for his moderate views on ethnic issues in China. Yet in January 2014 he was taken from his home in Beijing by police.

For five months, family and friends were not told where he was. He was denied food for 10 days and had his feet in shackles for 20 days straight. Then in September 2014 he was given a life sentence – supposedly for stirring up ethnic hatred.

Ilham comes from the Uighur community, a largely Muslim ethnic group that faces widespread discrimination in his home region, the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. In recent years, there has been a rise in tensions between ethnic groups there, as well as an increase in violent attacks.

Ilham adamantly opposed violence and worked tirelessly to build bridges and encourage co-operation between communities. Through his writing and lectures he also highlighted government practices that discriminated against many aspects of Uighurs’ lives.

But now he faces a lifetime in jail. He’s being cruelly punished for peacefully challenging the Chinese government’s policies towards ethnic minorities. 

Sign our petition to the Prison Director of XUAR:

I call on you to ensure that Ilham Tohti is not tortured or ill-treated in detention. A university professor, Ilham Tohti worked tirelessly to build bridges between ethnic communities in China.

He always opposed violence in his writing and lectures, and sought to encourage co-operation and understanding. But he’s been jailed for life for so-called “separatism”.

Ilham Tohti is being cruelly punished for his peaceful activism. It is unjust. He should be immediately and unconditionally released.