The Uyghur American Association requests President Obama to urge Xi Jinping for the release of Uyghur scholar, Ilham Tohti

Sa, 11/04/2014 - 19:33 -- Kanat

Deteriorating Uyghur human rights conditions should be raised at November 12 meeting in Beijing

For immediate release
November 4, 2014 10:00am EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 478 1920

The Uyghur American Association (UAA) requests President Obama to urge Chinese president, Xi Jinping to immediately and unconditionally release Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti. President Obama will attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing from November 11 to 12 and will meet separately with President Xi on November 12.

“This is the first meeting between President Obama and Chinese president, Xi Jinping since Beijing sentenced Uyghur scholar, Ilham Tohti to life imprisonment. Uyghurs were deeply appreciative when President Obama called for Mr. Tohti’s release. We now request President Obama to urge Xi Jinping to immediately and unconditionally release Ilham Tohti,” said UAA president, Alim Seytoff in a statement from Washington, DC.

UAA also requests President Obama to raise the deteriorating human rights environment for the Uyghur people. UAA expresses alarm that human rights conditions in East Turkestan have measurably worsened since Chinese president, Xi Jinping assumed office in March 2013. UAA asks President Obama to convey the concern of the U.S. government regarding the repressive environment in the region and the increase in tensions stemming from restrictive state policies.

Key issues that should be raised with Chinese officials are:

  • Absence of international standards of due process during the detention and trial of Uyghur economist, Ilham Tohti.
  • Whereabouts and condition of Ilham Tohti’s students detained in 2014, in particular the cases of Mutellip Imin and Atikem Rozi.
  • Use of excessive security measures in the name of “anti-terror” leading to credible reports of extrajudicial killings in Hanerik, Seriqbuya and Elishku among others. 
  • Curbs on religious freedom, which put China in violation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Discrimination targeting Uyghurs’ economic lives, including prejudicial hiring practices and imbalanced resource allocation in development planning.  

“While Ilham Tohti’s sentencing is a clear case of state retribution for his outspokenness, his students’ cases should not be forgotten. The deteriorating rights conditions in East Turkestan provoked by excessive security measures, religious repression and lack of economic opportunities is a legitimate concern that was raised by these brave, and now silenced, individuals. Uyghurs would welcome President Obama’s understanding of their concern by asking Chinese officials for an explanation for the terrible rights environment in East Turkestan,” Mr. Seytoff added.

During President Obama’s only other visit to China, in November 2009, East Turkestan was in the midst of an unprecedented communications blackout after unrest in the regional capital of Urumchi in July 2009. Amnesty International alleged Chinese security forces conducted extrajudicial killings to quell the 2009 Urumchi unrest and Human Rights Watch collected over 40 cases of enforced disappearance stemming from July 2009 events.

Since 2013, East Turkestan has witnessed a spike in violent incidents, which have resulted in the deaths and injuries of an unknown number of civilians and officials. UAA unequivocally rejects violence and urges the international community to call for independent evidence of Chinese government claims regarding these incidents.

Instead of sanctioning transparency to manage the increase in tensions, Chinese authorities have endorsed harsh security measures that fall far below international standards of due process. Since Xi Jinping’s call for a one-year “anti-terror” campaign in East Turkestan on May 23, Chinese authorities have overseen a series of arrests, mass trials, death sentences, and executions that have accelerated deteriorating conditions. In September, Chinese state media reported how the Supreme People’s Procuratorate would encourage “Chinese prosecutors, especially those in Xinjiang… to fast-track cases involving terrorists, religious extremists and manufacturers of firearms and explosives.”

Given the speed and atmosphere of retribution in the region, UAA is concerned China is not following obligations to a free and fair criminal-judicial process. Furthermore, China’s abysmal track record in so-called terrorism cases and conflation between peaceful dissent and violence is a further call for concern over the legitimacy of the current crackdown.

An illustration of Chinese officials’ zero tolerance to dissent is the harsh suppression of peaceful advocacy undertaken by Professor Ilham Tohti and his students.

Professor Tohti was found guilty on charges of “separatism” and sentenced to life imprisonment on September 23, 2014 after a two-day trial. The September 17-18 trial of Ilham Tohti and China’s handling of Mr. Tohti’s case was criticized by the White House, the U.S. State Departmentthe European Union, Amnesty International and the PEN American Center among others. Two of Ilham Tohti’s students, Mutellip Imin and Atikem Rozi, have been held incommunicado since January 2014.