The United States is deeply disturbed that Ilham Tohti has been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Peaceful dissent is not a crime.
This harsh sentence appears to be retribution for Professor Tohti’s peaceful efforts to promote human rights for China’s ethnic Uighur citizens.
Ilham Tohti is known to the world for his many years working to foster mutual understanding, tolerance, and dialogue to peacefully promote harmony and unity between Uighurs and Han Chinese. His detention silenced an important moderate Uighur voice.
Mr. Tohti and those like him are indispensable in helping to resolve the underlying causes of unrest and violence. Silencing them can only make tensions worse.
I have raised Professor Tohti’s case repeatedly, including during the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in July. Ambassador Baucus reiterated our calls for Professor Tohti’s release just last week during his visit to Xinjiang. And we again urge the Chinese authorities to release Professor Tohti, as well as his students who remain in detention.
They deserve the protections and freedoms to which they are entitled under China’s international human rights commitments and its own constitution.
Differentiating between peaceful dissent and violent extremism is vital to any effective efforts to counter terrorism.
Source: US State Department