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You are reading about: Ilham Tohti

China Change, September 22, 2018   Unsettling news from China emerges every week in a constant flow — on social media, in reports, and from our own sources in the country. Not every new development is suited to a fully fleshed-out analysis, and as with so much in China, many reports and developments cannot be immediately confirmed or properly evaluated. Nevertheless, while each individual brush stroke may not be decisive, upon stepping back a fuller picture begins to emerge. China Change catalogues and contextualizes these items so as to keep a growing awareness of changes in China.  — The Editors   Local Government Debt: Going Bankrupt, or Raising More? On September 13, the General Offices of both the Chinese Communist Party and the State Council […]


September 4, 2018     The Governments of Australia, Germany, Japan, Taiwan and the United States, and the European Council:   We are a group of students, scholars and professionals from China and Chinese-occupied territories. We call upon you to urge China to release the well-regarded Uyghur human rights leader Prof. Ilham Tohti, amid reports of students, scholars and professionals disappearing and dying in concentration camps and prisons in the occupied region of East Turkestan (known as Xinjiang in Chinese). The Chinese occupying authorities are cracking down on Uyghurs with the use of widespread surveillance, language restrictions, elimination of cultural and religious expression, forcible political indoctrination, family separation, and mass incarceration. Prof. Ilham criticized oppressive policies such as these, and called for dialogue, reconciliation and […]


August 10, 2018     It is now clear, from numerous reliable sources, that shocking human rights atrocities are being perpetrated in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China (XUAR). The Communist Party authorities have established a large number of political re-education centers in Xinjiang, detaining people without any judicial process, stripping them of their personal liberty, imprisoning them, and detaining them for indeterminate ‘sentences.’ Estimates of the numbers detained range from hundreds of thousands to over a million, primarily targeting Uighurs, but also Kazakhs, Hui people, and other minorities who follow Islam. Among those detainees are peasants, workers, university, college, high-school and middle-school students, teachers, poets, writers, artists, scholars, the head of a provincial department, bureau chiefs, village chiefs, and even Uighur police officers. […]


China Change, November 8, 2017     The city of Weimar announced on June 30 that, in compliance with the Weimar City Council’s recommendation, they were awarding this year’s Weimar Human Rights Prize to Ilham Tohti in recognition of his work upholding the rights of the Uighur people and promoting understanding between Uighurs and Han Chinese. In accordance with tradition, the Prize is awarded every year on December 10—International Human Rights Day. The Weimar City Council, in announcing the award, said: “As a professor of economics and sociology at the Central University for Nationalities (Minzu), for decades Ilham Tohti spared no effort in publicizing the economic and social difficulties faced by Uighurs in Xinjiang. At the same time he advocated the peaceful coexistence of Uighurs, […]


China Change, September 22, 2017 We believe that the combination of reduced visits, denial of communication, gag orders, and family reprisals, have been carefully engineered to punish the Uighur scholar with degrading treatment and psychological torture, while at the same time keeping the attention on his plight from the outside world to a minimum.   September 23, 2017, marks the 3rd anniversary of the Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti’s sentencing to life in prison for peacefully speaking out for the economic, cultural, political and religious rights of the 10 million Uighur people inhabiting the northwestern region known as Xinjiang. A Summary of the Case Ilham Tohti is the most renowned Uighur intellectual in the People’s Republic of China. For over two decades he has worked tirelessly […]


Tsering Woeser, February 10, 2017 Woeser’s note: This essay was written in Lhasa in the summer of 2014, for a very special book. The volume, “Trails of the Tibetan Tradition: Papers for Elliot Sperling,” was a compilation of 31 essays from Tibetologists, paying respect to Elliot Sperling. There were 5 essays in Tibetan, 25 in English, and 1 in Chinese. On February 3, 2015, the book was launched at the Amnye Machen Institute [in Dharamsala]. Prior to that, Elliot didn’t know that this book had been in preparation for two years. It was presented as a gift to him as a token of respect and friendship, and most importantly as a testament to his preciousness and rarity: wise, kind, brave, righteous. And yet… those whom […]


Elliot Sperling, February 5, 2017 In memory of Elliot, who passed away last week. I recovered this from my email archive, dated September 17, 2016, the day after Ilham Tohti was nominated for the Sakharov Prize. It is published here for the first time. – Yaxue Cao     The nomination last week of the imprisoned Uyghur Professor Ilham Tohti for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is welcome recognition of the role this courageous individual has played in working for the fundamental rights of a beleaguered people, a people subject to one of the harshest regimens that China visits on any nationalities or collective groups within its borders. But the persecution of Ilham Tohti serves as an example of how China’s […]


China Change, September 19, 2016       Ilham Tohti (伊力哈木), a Uighur scholar known for his incisive writings on China’s policies in Xinjiang, was named by the European Parliament to be one of the five nominees for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on September 15. Ilham has for years been a vocal advocate for the economic, cultural, and religious rights of Uighurs in Xinjiang. His role as a rational voice for Uighur autonomy led to his arrest in January, 2014, and a sentence to life imprisonment in September that year. Incidentally, on the same day that Ilham won the nomination, Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, was received by the European Parliament where he spoke of his admiration for “the spirit of […]


André Gattonlin, Marie Holzman, and Noël Mamère, July 18, 2016 This is a translation of Donnons le prix Sakharov à un intellectuel ouïghour published in the French newspaper Libération on July 14, 2016. – The Editors   The Sakharov Prize is awarded every year in October, to honor individuals or organizations who have dedicated their lives to defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. The award, which was created in 1985 by the French MP Jean-François Deniau, may well be awarded this year to an Uighur intellectual who was sentenced in 2014 to life in prison. It turns out that this professor from Minzu University (University for Nationalities) in Beijing had been discovered in 2008 by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was invited to spend […]


Yaxue Cao, May 31, 2016 On May 25, a conference titled “Does China Want Real Ethnic Harmony? Professor Ilham Tohti in Perspective” was held in the European Parliament in Brussels. It was sponsored by MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe; MEP Barbara Lochbihler, with the Greens/European Free Alliance and the vice-chair of Subcommittee on Human Rights of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, gave the closing remarks. Both members displayed a sound grasp of the plight of Uighurs and Ilham Tohti’s case, and explained how the Sakharov Prize should be seen as a vehicle of change. I spoke along with five other panelists from academia and human rights groups in Europe and the US, and together we made the case […]


By Yaxue Cao, published: February 24, 2016   Ilham Tohti, the renowned Uighur scholar who was sentenced to life in prison on charges of “splitting the country” has been denied visitation by his family over the Chinese New Year. Reports had earlier indicated that Ilham’s brother would be visiting him in prison on February 18, but according to his friend, Beijing-based dissident Hu Jia, speaking to Voice of America, Ilham’s brother was effectively denied permission. Hu Jia learnt of the news through Ilham’s wife. Given the lack of further information about the reasons for the denial, supporters are worried about Ilham’s physical and mental health. Hu Jia visited Ilham’s wife and children twice recently, taking the the two boys to a science and technology museum […]


Updated on December 10, 2018, the International Human Rights Day   Prepared by Late Elliot Sperling, professor of Central Eurasian Studies, Indiana University  Yaxue Cao, editor of ChinaChange.org and the Ilham Tohti Initiative   Ilham Tohti is the most renowned Uyghur public intellectual in the People’s Republic of China. For over two decades he has worked tirelessly to foster dialogue and understanding between Uyghurs and Chinese over the present-day repressive religious, cultural and political conditions of the Uyghurs, a Muslim Turkic people living mostly in modern China’s northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. As a result of his efforts he was sentenced in September, 2014, to life in prison following a two-day show trial. He remains a voice of moderation and reconciliation in spite of what […]


Translation published: January 15, 2016 Ilham Tohti was an economics professor at Minzu University in Beijing and the foremost Uighur public intellectual in the People’s Republic of China. He was sentenced to life in prison in September 2014 for criticizing the government’s policies in Xinjiang and advocating basic economic, cultural, religious and political rights for the Uighur people. The translation is based on the Chinese transcript of a VOA interview with Ilham Tohti in November 2013, shortly after the car crash of a Uighur family in Tiananmen Square on October 28, 2013, and less than three months before his detention on January 15, 2014. You may also want to watch our 32-minute documentary about Ilham Tohti. – The Editors   BEIJING – The Chinese government has included Xinjiang and Tibet […]


  ILHAM TOHTI A professor at Minzu University in Beijing and the foremost Uighur public intellectual in the People’s Republic of China, he was sentenced to life in prison in September 2014 for advocating basic economic, cultural, religious and political rights for the Uighur people.   Inside:  — Interviews with Ilham Tohti — Commentaries by Sakharov Prize laureate Hu Jia; Professor Elliot Sperling; Jewher Ilham, daughter of Ilham Tohti; former President of PEN American Center Peter Godwin; Director of Uighur Human Rights Project Alim Seytoff, and more. Acknowledgement:  We wish our viewers to be keenly aware that we did not make this documentary; we built one from others’ works. We are deeply grateful for what the following organizations have done before us and for their giving us the permission […]


Translated From a Report Posted by RFA on October 16, 2015   Noted French Sinologist Prof. Marie Holzman, someone who knows Ilham Tohti, is calling on the European Parliament to award the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Ilham, a well-known Uyghur intellectual who has been sentenced to life in prison, and to speak out more forcefully on his behalf. When Prof. Holzman, a noted French Sinologist, went to China as a student in the 1970s, she met several youths who at the time were opposing the Chinese dictatorship and struggling for democracy. Later on, the representative figure for this group of youths, Wei Jingsheng (魏京生), received a sentence of 15 years imprisonment. This spurred Prof. Holzman to become one of the Sinologists in the […]


China Change, published: October 16, 2015   Ilham Tohti, the Uighur scholar and public intellectual currently serving a life sentence in prison, has called on his family to engage lawyers and lodge an appeal for him through the Chinese judicial system. Ilham made the request on the second occasion that family has visited him since his sentence on September 23, 2014. Ilham’s mother and brother traveled to the No. 1 Prison in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, on October 15. Ilham’s health is stable despite his being kept in solitary confinement, his lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan told Radio Free Asia, relating what Ilham’s brother had told him. Ilham also asked family to send him books. He firmly believes he’s not guilty of the […]


By Yaxue Cao and Yaqiu Wang, published: August 19, 2015   The Chinese government has lately carried out a massive campaign to arrest, summon, and threaten Chinese lawyers. The propaganda machine has followed in lock-step, operating at full strength to tarnish these lawyers’ reputations by describing them as a “criminal gang,” “hooligans,” and “scum of the lawyer community” (here, here, and here). Rights lawyers first emerged in the 2000s at the onset of a Chinese rights-defense movement. For more than a decade, they have fought courageously for legal justice and been on the front lines of promoting rule of law in China by taking part in innumerable cases of all sizes dealing with some of the most important problems in Chinese political and social life, such as […]


By Ilham Tohti, translated by Cindy Carter, published: May 19, 2015   ChinaChange.org Editor’s Note: This article, a total of 24,000 characters in Chinese, was first posted on the Daxiong Gonghui (大象公会) website sometime after the Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti’s arrest in January, 2014. Daxiong Gonghui described the origin of the article in a note: “This document was written by Ilham Tohti, Associate Professor of Economics at Minzu University of China (formerly Central Nationalities University), in response to a 2011 request from high-level officials in the Chinese government. Ilham Tohti made first-draft revisions to this document in October of 2013, but was unable to complete a final draft.” The post has since been censored and is only available elsewhere as reposts. Ms. Yaxue Cao, the […]


By Ilham Tohti, translated by Cindy Carter, published: May 19, 2015 Continued from I. Unemployment, II. Bilingual Education, III. Religion, IV. Ethnic Alienation and Segregation, V.  Distrust of Ethnic Minority Officials and Intellectuals, VI. The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, and VII. Governmental Competence and Credibility   VIII. Han Chinese Chauvinism Overview The preamble to the Chinese Constitution once read: “In the struggle to safeguard national unity, we must oppose Han chauvinism, as well as combat ethnic nationalism.” In the Mao era, the two phrases “ethnic nationalism” and “Han chauvinism” would often appear together in discussions of ethnic relations, but today, the phrase “Han chauvinism” has completely disappeared from everyday conversation. Our government has always proclaimed its opposition to “Han chauvinism” as well as “ethnic nationalism,” yet virtually […]


By Ilham Tohti, translated by Cindy Carter, published: May 12, 2015 Continued from I. Unemployment, II. Bilingual Education, III. Religion, IV. Ethnic Alienation and Segregation, V.  Distrust of Ethnic Minority Officials and Intellectuals, and VI. The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.   VII. Governmental Competence and Credibility Overview There is a vast disparity between economic and social development in Xinjiang and in other regions of mainland China. This disparity extends to the official mindset: at all levels of government in Xinjiang, we encounter a mentality that falls far short of what is needed to govern and manage Xinjiang’s societal complexities. The class struggle and dictatorial mindset that died out so long ago in other parts of China (particularly in the economically-developed coastal regions) still exists, to varying degrees, […]


By Ilham Tohti, translated by Cindy Carter, published: May 4, 2015 Continued from I. Unemployment, II. Bilingual Education and III. Religion   IV. Ethnic Alienation and Segregation Overview Among the openly talked-about problems affecting ethnic relations in Xinjiang, perhaps the most important is the increasing sense of alienation among ethnic minorities. But beyond this psychological sense of alienation, there is another, even more severe problem that few people (Uighurs in particular) are willing to discuss openly: the problem of physical ethnic segregation. By physical or macro-level segregation, I mean that Xinjiang’s Han Chinese population tends to be clustered in areas of relatively high population density. In fact, the vast majority of Xinjiang’s Han Chinese population is concentrated in three areas, all of which are effectively […]


By Ilham Tohti, translated by Cindy Carter, published: April 26, 2015   Continued from I. Unemployment and II. Bilingual Education III. Religion Overview                                                        Since the July 2009 ethnic unrest in Xinjiang, religious fervor within China’s Uighur community has been rising steadily. Whether in traditional villages in southern Xinjiang, among urban officials and intellectuals, or even on college campuses in Beijing, there has been a quiet upsurge in religious conservatism—and the percentage of youthful conservative adherents is at an all-time high. Some observers have noted that, during religious services at mosques, it is not uncommon to see young people praying silently, with tears streaming down their faces. This is a social signal worthy of our close attention. As an overt symbol of a people’s cultural and […]


By Ilham Tohti, translated by Cindy Carter, published: April 23, 2015   Continued from I. Unemployment II. Bilingual Education Overview Besides unemployment, the issue that provokes the most intense reaction within Xinjiang’s Uighur community is the issue of bilingual education. In practice, “bilingual education” in Xinjiang has essentially become “monolingual education” (i.e. Mandarin-only education.) Within the Uighur community, there is a widespread belief that the government intends to establish an educational system based on written Chinese and rooted in the idea of “one language, one origin.” Suspicions abound that the government is using administrative means to exterminate Uighur culture and accelerate ethnic and cultural assimilation. With the mandatory implementation of so-called “bilingual education,” the Uighur language has become steadily marginalized, not only in the field of […]


By Ilham Tohti, translated by Cindy Carter, published: April 22, 2015   This article, a total of 24,000 words in Chinese, was first posted on the Daxiong Gonghui (“大象公会”) website after the Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti’s arrest in January, 2014. Daxiong Gonghui described the origin of the article in a note: “This document was written by Ilham Tohti, associate professor of economics at Minzu University of China (formerly Central Nationalities University), in response to a 2011 request from high-level officials in the Chinese government. Ilham Tohti made first-draft revisions to this document in October of 2013, but was unable to complete a final draft.” The post has since been censored and is only available elsewhere as a repost. I was able to confirm the origin and the […]


By Teng Biao, published: January 6, 2015 A shorter version of the article appeared in Washington Post on December 28, 2014. Here is the full text.  – The Editor   I’m afraid that those of you who excitedly applauded the Communist Party’s rehashing of the term “governing the country according to the law” have forgotten the famous words of Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Jiang Yu, who once warned sternly, “Don’t use the law as a shield.” I don’t understand why some people only remember the pleasant words they speak and but forget their blatant opposition to universal values; why some people are always willing to believe what they say, but disregard all the things that they do. The Communists once boasted wildly about “liberty and constitutional […]


By Ilham Tohti, published: April 6, 2014   On January 15, 2014, Chinese authorities arrested Ilham Tohti, a Uighur economics professor at the prestigious Minzu University in Beijing. Authorities formally charged him with separatism on February 25, and have so far denied him access to his attorney. For years, Tohti has discussed and commented on not only Chinese policies in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, where the vast majority of this Turkic Muslim population lives, but also the state of Han-Uighur relations. He founded the Chinese-language website 维吾尔在线 (Uighur Online), which is meant to facilitate communication and understanding between the two peoples. The PEN American Center has recently named Ilham as the 2014 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award winner. The following autobiographic essay, written in January, 2011, provides a much-needed portrait of the man. […]


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