An ethnic minority scholar serving life imprisonment in a Chinese jail was today announced as the 2016 winner of an award often dubbed the Nobel Prize for human rights.
Ilham Tohti, an Uyghur former economics professor, was given the Martin Ennals Award for working “for two decades to foster dialogue and understanding between Uyghurs and Han Chinese,” the jury said.
“He has rejected separatism and violence, and sought reconciliation based on a respect for Uyghur culture, which has been subject to religious, cultural and political repression in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” the jury continued in a statement.
Tohit was arrested in January 2014 and jailed for life for inciting separatism in the restive north-western region of China.
The Martin Ennals Award is named after the former secretary-general of Amnesty International.
Tohti has also been nominated for the European Parliament’s 2016 Sakharov Prize, to be announced on Oct 27.
Chinese dissident Hu Jia, 2008 Sakharov Prize recipient, praised the nomination.
“Ilham is a thorn in the side of the Communist Party,” he told Radio Free Asia.