The Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, Christoph Strässer, issued the following statement today (31 July) on the Chinese authorities’ indictment of Uighur professor Ilham Tohti:
I am concerned by the reports that professor Ilham Tohti has been charged with separatism. Violent confrontations such as the latest tragic developments in Yarkand show that dialogue is the only way to bring lasting stability to the region. I strongly condemn the increasing violence, in part including acts of terrorism, in Xinjiang.
In the past, Ilham Tohti has worked to promote peaceful understanding between Han Chinese and Uighurs, championed the Uighurs’ legitimate cultural and economic interests and has opposed resorting to violence. I am concerned about the lack of transparency in the case against Ilham Tohti, the grave deterioration of his health during his detainment and the insufficient options for him to obtain legal assistance. I call on the Chinese Government to demonstrate its commitment to the principles of the rule of law.
Ilham Tohti was an economic professor at the renowned university designated for ethnic minorities in Beijing where he was carrying out research into the Uighurs’ economic and social situation. Following his arrest on 15 January 2014, he was taken to Urumqi and on Wednesday he was indicted on charges of separatism and incitement to racial hatred. The maximum sentence Tohti faces is the death penalty. The latest violent confrontations in the restive province of Xinjiang on 28 July caused up to 100 deaths and injuries.