Beijing yesterday slammed the nomination of a jailed academic from China’s Uighur minority for one of Europe’s top human rights awards, saying it equated to “supporting terrorism”.
Europe’s top rights body has shortlisted Ilham Tohti, an economics professor who was sentenced to life in prison in September 2014 after being convicted of separatism.
The 49-year-old economics professor “has worked for over 20 years on the situation of the Uighur minority and on fostering inter-ethnic dialogue and understanding in China”, the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly said in a statement after meeting Monday in Prague.
But China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang yesterday called Tohti a “separatist who supports extreme terrorism” and urged the Council of Europe to withdraw their nomination.
“This nomination is an attempt to whitewash his criminal activities and fool the human rights community,” Geng said at a regular briefing.
“We urge relevant agencies to withdraw their nominations and stop supporting separatist activities and terrorism.”
Tohti is one of three nominees for the 2019 Vaclav Havel prize, along with Tajik human rights lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov and a youth group promoting post-war reconciliation in the Balkans.
The winner of the 60,000-euro prize will be announced on September 30 in Strasbourg, home of the 47-country Council of Europe which founded the European Court of Human Rights.
Tohti has also been nominated by US lawmakers for the Nobel Peace Prize.