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An Open Letter on Ilham Tohti’s Life

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 the regional autonomy China promised. Serving a life sentence now, he has suffered physical abuse and been banned from corresponding with his family.

The Chinese occupiers have kidnapped Uyghur intellectuals, including Prof. Halmurat Ghophur, a prominent medical scientist, and Prof. Rahile Dawut, a respected specialist on Uyghur culture. In China’s camps and jails, notable detainees have been tortured to death, including Imam Muhammad Salih Hajim, the first scholar to translate the Quran into Uyghur, and at least two students who had been forced to return from Egypt. Such disappearances and deaths make us extremely worried for Prof. Ilham’s life.

To save Prof. Ilham from the most systematic and large-scale ethnic cleansing taking place in the world today, we appeal for you to exert intense pressure on the Chinese regime. We look forward to the international community’s moral courage facing China — the same that it showed in the face of the Nazi menace.













Initiated by (发起人):

Lebao Wu (吴乐宝, student, Australia, Twitter: @MerlotN)
Sulaiman Gu (苏莱曼·古懿, student, United States, Twitter: @slmngy001)

Co-signed by (联署人):

Biao Teng (腾彪, lawyer, United States)
Ismail Cui (伊斯梅尔·崔浩新, poet, China)
Memet Emin (买买提·伊明, researcher, United States)
Lihua Mo (莫莉花, writer, Sweden)
Zhengming Fu (傅正明, writer, Sweden)
Salih Hudayar (萨利赫·胡达亚尔, student, United States)
Chuangchuang Chen (陈闯创, United States)
Tsundu Oser (宗都奥色, editor, Australia)
Ismail Ma (伊斯梅尔·马聚, United States)
David Yeliang Xia (夏业良, researcher, United States)
Ümit Hamit (玉米提·哈米提, therapist, Germany)
Suk-fong Choi(蔡淑芳, journalist, Hong Kong)
Tahir Imin (塔希尔·伊明, researcher, United States)
Nicholas Liou Kiyokawa (刘耀元, student, Japan)
Abduweli Ayup (阿布都外力·阿尤布, poet, Turkey)
Yonglin Chen (陈用林, activist, Australia)
Aynur Mehmet (艾努尔·买买提, student, United States)
Usmanjan Zhang (奥斯曼江·张龙,engineer, United States)
Jurat Sadik (居来提·萨迪克, student, Japan)
Yijiang Liu (刘奕江, United States)
Mihray Abdilim Abral (米拉依·阿布迪里木·阿布拉力, journalist, United States)
Gheyret Toxti (海拉提·土赫提, engineer, Turkey)
Francis Liu (刘贻, pastor, United States)
Anwar Nuruz (安瓦尔·诺鲁孜, journalist, Germany)
Qianyi Li (李谦宜, Australia)
Zumret Tursun (祖木热提·吐尔逊, analyst, Norway)
Angela Margya (杨思婷, student, Canada)
Tsolmon Tsoggerel (朝勒蒙·朝格勒, student, Mongolia)
Akbar Kasim (阿克巴·卡辛, student, Germany)
Tao Zhou (周涛, student, Canada)
Mahmut Barat (马哈提·巴拉提, teacher, Norway)
Nijat Kader (尼加提·卡德尔, researcher, United States)




Ilham Tohti Documentary


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.


— 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.


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 to use their materials, or this presentation of Ilham Tohti would not have been possible:

Pen American Center (watch)

Human Rights Fifth Estate TV – NYC created by Melissa Cornick (watch)

Tsering Woeser (watch)

Voice of America Chinese (interviews with Ilham Tohti: here, here and here; interview with Hu Jia)

Radio Free Asia (Ilham Tohti’s Uighur recording on July 24, 2013; English translation)

Pen International (here and here)


— The Editors




Marie Holzman: ‘The European Parliament Should Award the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Ilham Tohti’, October 16, 2015.

Professor Ilham Tohti Calls for Family to Appeal His Case, October 16, 2015.

Ilham Tohti’s Statement to RFA Uighur Service on July 24, 2013.

My Ideals and the Career Path I Have Chosen, April 2014.

Present-Day Ethnic Problems in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region: Overview and Recommendations, May 2015.




Family Files Petition to Redress the Case of Dr. Wang Bingzhang

By China Change, published: November 30, 2014


Ti-Anna Wang, in "prison" with father.

Ti-Anna Wang, in “prison” with father in Times Square, in New York city,  September, 2013.

Eleven years into Dr. Wang Bingzhang’s life sentence for “terrorism” and “espionage,” his family marshalled on, against all odds, to try to free the man who pioneered the Chinese overseas democracy movement in early 1980s. In their latest move, the family filed a petition with the Guangdong provincial High People’s Court for retrying Dr. Wang Bingzhang’s case in light of the evidence they have collected that would exonerate Dr. Wang.

The 66-years-old Dr. Wang Bingzhang was the first Chinese from mainland China to receive a PhD degree after China’s opening up in the late 1970s. But he abandoned medicine after graduating from McGill University in Canada in late 1982 to become a democracy activist based in New York. He founded China Spring magazine and the Chinese Alliance for Democracy, an organization defined by the Chinese communist government as “politically, economically, culturally, morally and hygienically detrimental to China.” On June 27, 2002, Dr. Wang Bingzhang was kidnapped near China’s border with Vietnam and taken to China. On February 2003, Dr. Wang Bingzhang was secretly tried in the southernmost city Shenzhen and subsequently sentenced to life in prison for “espionage” and ten years for “organizing and leading a terrorist group.”

The Verdict found Dr. Wang guilty of many ideas and many plans which Dr. Wang refuted point by point in 2004 in a 90-page long petition to the Supreme Court of Guangdong province. Of course that petition has gone nowhere because the case of Dr. Wang was never criminal but political. Of the two tangible crimes, he was convicted of spying for Taiwanese intelligence and of attempting to bomb the Chinese embassy in Bangkok but “failed because the Thailand police foiled it.”

In December 2009, Dr. Wang’s daughter Ti-Anna Wang and his son Times Wang, an American lawyer, went to Thailand to find out the circumstances of their father’s interactions with the Thai police during his stay in July 2001. According to a document titled “Investigation Summary of Wang Bingzhang” and dated December 30, 2009, the Thai police acted on a tip by a Chinese refugee whoalleged that Wang Bingzhang was a terrorist suspect and investigated Wang and his associates. The summary stated that the “instigation turned up no evidence that Wang had plans of any kind involving terrorist attacks against the Chinese embassy in Bangkok.” “Fearing that his continued presence in Bangkok may endanger him, Colonel Thongboos [the investigator] advised Wang to leave the country.” Dr. Wang Bingzhang did. “Sometime after Wang’s departure,” the Summary continues, “the Thai Royal Police were contacted by [a] Chinese official

English translation of the statement by the Royal Thai Police. Click to enlarge.

English translation of the statement by the Royal Thai Police. Click to enlarge.

who inquired about the investigation and arrest of Wang Bingzhang. Colonel Thongboos and his superiors informed the official that they had investigated such a plot pursuant to existing tips but found the accusation to be baseless.” “No official action was ever taken against Wang by the Thai Government, and no files or reports have been maintained over the years.”

In his own petition in 2004, Dr. Wang Bingzhang wrote sharply, “Taking instruction from those in power, I was convicted of ‘terrorism’ to meet political needs. That is, since 911 terrorist attack in the US, anti-terrorism has become a fashionable word, and terrorists are condemned everywhere. To try and sentence me for ‘terror’ instead of ‘subversion of the government’ or ‘subversion of socialism,’ [the Chinese government] wished to minimize criticism from the international community. On the contrary…the CCP regime was guilty of state terrorism, and I am a victim of China’s transnational terrorist activities.”

On December 2, 2013, Taiwan’s Legislature Yuan held a bipartisan hearing on rescuing Chinese political prisoners. Dr. Wang’s daughter Ti-Anna Wang asked the Taiwanese government to “clarify whether my father was a Taiwanese spy or not. He was serving a life sentence for this charge.” “If he is not,” she told Taiwanese legislators, “please declare my father’s innocence and ask the Chinese government to free him.”

In response to the request of legislators, the Taiwanese National Security Bureau issued a statement on December 10, 2013, that Wang Bingzhang and Peng Ming (another political prisoner serving life sentence for being a spy for Taiwan) have never been retained for intelligence work.

About three weeks ago, the Wangs filed a petition for a retrial with the Supreme Court of Guangdong province, where Dr. Wang has been jailed in solitary confinement for the last 11 years.

The Chinese lawyer retained by the Wang family has been harassed and threatened with disbarment by the Chinese authorities, and has not been able to meet with Dr. Wang despite repeated attempts.

In June 2013, the Wangs launched a publicity campaign in Canada and the United States to seek the release of Dr. Wang. In New York City’s Times Square, nearly 200 people, including Dr. Wang’s siblings, children, and democracy activists, staged the “In Prison with Dr. Wang Bingzhang” for four weeks.

Statement by Taiwan National Security Bureau

Statement by Taiwan National Security Bureau. Click to enlarge.

Over the eleven years, family members – all of them living either in Canada or the U. S. – have made over 30 prison visits and lobbied the Canadian and the American governments and international organizations tirelessly. Because of her outspoken campaign for her father’s release, Ti-Anna Wang has not been able to visit her father for the past five years because of visa denial. In February this year, Dr. Wang’s sister, having traveled to the prison, was denied a meeting with him while only Dr. Wang’s brother Bingwu was allowed in. But in May and August, Bingwu’s visa application was twice denied, a punishment Bingwu believes was for the family’s sustained campaign and for his informing his brother of these efforts in his last visit of him.

In March this year, while attending a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Ti-Anna Wang was intimidated by a man, ostensibly a representative of a Chinese NGO, who is likely an agent with close ties with the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department.

Speaking at the Oslo Freedom Forum recently, Ti-Anna Wang said that, while her activism and that of the other daughters of Chinese political prisoners are inherited, their “first-hand experience of the exact types of anti-democratic and anti-human rights practices that they fought so hard to combat and has thus instilled in all of us a very genuine conviction that China must change.”


Additional sources:

Interviews with Yuhua Wang and Bingwu Wang.



Fighting for my father’s freedom, October 21, 2014. Speech at Oslo Freedom Forum by Dr. Wang Bingzhang’s daughter Ti-Anna Wang.

In the Prison of China – The Journey of Dr. Wang Bingzhang –  part 1, part 2, and part 3, by Yaxue Cao, October, 2013.