Free Prisoner of Conscience in China


Target: Xi Jinping Guojia Zhuxi, President of China

Goal: Release a scholar accused of “separatism” as a result of his human rights activism

For years, Uyghur economics professor Ilham Tohti has spoken out for the rights of ethnic minorities in China. The Chinese government has responded by charging him with “separatism” and throwing him in jail, where he faces a slew of potential human rights violations. Sign the petition and demand fair and just treatment for Ilham Tohti.

Uyghurs “are a mainly Muslim ethnic minority who are concentrated in the [Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region] in China”. Uyghurs are subject to widespread and systemic discrimination in China, facing restrictions on everything from their religious freedom to their use of the Uyghur language. They are often scapegoated for “destroying [Chinese] culture.” Matters have only gotten worse after an attack on Tianenmen Square in 2013, which was blamed on Uyghur separatists.

Ilham Tohti was arrested and charged with separatism, a charge that is often levied against Uyghurs who dare to call out the Chinese government for its human rights violations. Several of his students were arrested at the same time; so far, half of them have been released. Tohti remains in prison, where he has not had access to a lawyer or contact with his family, and Amnesty International fears for his well-being, since torture and ill-treatment are “endemic” in Chinese prisons.

Tohti has done nothing except express criticism of the Chinese government, and freedom of speech is not a crime. Sign the petition and demand that the Chinese authorities acknowledge the flimsiness of the charge against Ilham Tohti and release him immediately.


Your Excellency,

I am writing to express my deep concern for Ilham Tohti, who has been held in a detention center in Urumqi since the end of January. I fear for his safety and sincerely believe that the charges against him stem solely from his outspoken criticism of the Chinese government rather than from any actual wrongdoing. I therefore demand that he be released immediately.

Tohti has long been a passionate critic of human rights violations in China, particularly those against Uyghurs. In the atmosphere of heightened tensions following the attack on Tienanmen Square in October, Uyghurs have faced even more discrimination and ill-treatment than usual. I fear that Ilham Tohti, like the Uyghurs as a whole, is being made a scapegoat for other issues within China. This is unacceptable.

Ilham Tohti is a prisoner of conscience and, as such, must be released immediately. Either charge him with an internationally-recognizable and provable offense or let him go.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Voice of America via Wikimedia Commons

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