Professor Ilham Tohti, a prominent public intellectual, was convicted on charges of separatism and sentenced to life in prison in September 2014. Professor Tohti is a scholar of economics at the Central Minzu University in Beijing and an advocate for the rights of China’s Uyghur minority group. Professor Tohti promoted dialogue and reconciliation between Uyghurs and Han Chinese through his site, “Uighurbiz.net.” Read more.
On January 15, 2014, police raided Professor Tohti’s family home, where they seized computers, cell phones, passports, and student essays, and arrested him. He was reportedly held incommunicado until late June 2014, and was subsequently denied regular access to family. On July 30, 2014, Professor Tohti was formally charged with separatism, a charge that apparently stems from his teachings at the university and writings published on his former website, “Uighurbiz.net.”
On September 23, 2014, after a two-day trial that was closed to the public, the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court found Professor Tohti guilty of separatism, sentenced him to life in prison, and ordered all of his assets seized. The sentencing was upheld on appeal. Chinese authorities have not publicly disclosed any evidence against Professor Tohti beyond his articles, interviews, and lectures, raising serious concerns about his trial and conviction. In addition, SAR is concerned about reports of continued limitations on family visits to Professor Tohti.