China imprison prominent Uyghur scholar for life

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Originally published by NewsPakistan.PK on September 26, 2014

Life imprisonment and confiscation of all his property. This is the statement that a Chinese court has imposed for “encouraging separatism ” Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, 44 years and a very moderate line defender of the rights of their ethnicity. With this conviction, harder than in years China has imposed an activist against the central government in Beijing sends a clear message: there any criticism will be tolerated by soft it is, its policy in Xinjiang.

The statement, as reported by the official Chinese news agency Xinhua, accuses Professor of Economic Theory at the University of Beijing Minorities “lure and coerce ” minority students to form ” a criminal gang ” of at least eight people and of inciting violence on their website.

As revealed by her lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan, to hear the verdict read at a session of three hours and ten minutes, Tohti protested and was forced out by the guardians of the living Intermediate Court No. 1 of Urumqi in Xinjiang, who judged his case last week. The academic, the most famous defender of the rights of Uighurs in China, will appeal the ruling. But his attorneys are not optimistic: resources not usually thrive in the country’s penal system.

The sentence is extremely severe. Must go back to 2003 to find so hard against a dissident Han (the majority in China), Wang Binzhang. At the most famous Chinese activist, Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to eleven years imprisonment. But sentences for Uighurs accused of separatism are often more drastic. The central government has launched a campaign heavy-handed in that province, home to the Muslim Uighur -from religion and language of origin túrquico- following an increase in ethnic violence in recent years.

The attacks, which Beijing attributed to Islamic extremist groups seeking independence for Xinjiang, have grown more complex and deadly since 2009, when there were the worst clashes between the two communities, which left nearly 200 dead. The bloodiest attack so far this year was in May in Urumqi, when a series of explosions at a market left 31 people dead. This same Sunday two people died and wounded were recorded “numerous”, police of the province, in a series of explosions in various parts of Xinjiang. China has responded to violence with raids, mass trials and executions.

Many Uighurs complain of difficulties in practicing their religion, language discrimination and poor living standards and opportunities facing the Han Chinese, whose numbers have grown tremendously in Xinjiang in the last three decades encouraged by policy incentives central government and the wealth of natural resources in the province. The harsh sentencing Tohti might contribute to exacerbate the sense of grievance.

Tohti, founder of the website ‘ Uyghur Online ‘ blocked in China but sought to promote understanding between the two communities, has vigorously defended the right of the community to be educated in their language or practice their religion, but from a moderate perspective. Always advocated dialogue as the means to resolve differences and stressed that it was not a supporter of the independence movement.

Although it was already uncomfortable for the Chinese authorities previously scrutiny against him intensified after a vehicle driven by Uighur extremists apparently caught fire in Tiananmen in October 2013, in an incident in which three people died. After reporting several episodes of harassment, Tohti was arrested in January at his home in Beijing, in the presence of one of his young children. His arrest led to protests from the USA and EU.

The sentence implies that Chinese authorities seize all assets of Tohti, including family savings. The academic and his wife, Guzaili Nu’er, have two children, aged five and eight years. Tohti has another daughter, Jewher, studying at a university in USA.

The sentence was greeted with outrage by human rights organizations. ” Ilham has only exercised his right to freedom of expression, for which there should be imprisoned,” said the international director of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, Renee Xia said in a statement. ” The government is trying to blame recent violence incidenes and divert attention from the failures of their own policies, which have helped to increase ethnic tensions,” says Xia.

For its part, China researcher for Amnesty International William Nee believes that ” this shameful judgment is not based in reality. Ilham Tohti has worked peacefully eigir bridges between ethnic communities, and punished him for it by politically motivated charges “.

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