Daughter Accepts EU Parliament Prize on Behalf of Uyghur Activist

December 18, 2019 Updated: December 18, 2019

BRUSSELS—The daughter of jailed Uyghur rights activist Ilham Tohti accepted a European Parliament prize on his behalf on Dec. 18, urging lawmakers in an address not to be “complicit in the Chinese persecution of the Uyghur people.”

China has come under increasing international scrutiny for cracking down on the Muslim Uyghur minority in its northwestern Xinjiang region.

Tohti, an economist, was jailed for life in China in 2014 on separatism charges that were widely denounced in Western capitals.

His daughter, Jewher Ilham, urged politicians, academics and students on Wednesday to protest against the treatment of the Uyghurs as she accepted her father’s Sakharov Prize for defense of human rights at the parliament in Strasbourg.

Independent German researcher Adrian Zenz, an expert on China’s ethnic policies, estimated in March that 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslims had been or were being detained in so-called re-education centers in Xinjiang.

The 50,000 euro ($55,000) Sakharov Prize has been awarded annually since 1988 to individuals and organizations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. House of Representatives gave initial approval to a bill that would require the U.S. administration to toughen its response to China’s crackdown.

In Strasbourg, European Parliament president David Sassoli said: “By awarding this prize, we strongly urge the Chinese government to release Tohti and we call for the respect of minority rights in China.”

By Jonas Ekblom