Like the U.S., European countries are getting tougher on human rights in China. The most significant signs of that this year both happened this month, with two human rights awards for jailed Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti. Deutsche Welle reports:
The European Parliament on Thursday awarded its Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Ilham Tohti.
Tohti is an economist fighting for the rights of China’s Uighur minority and the implementation of regional autonomy laws in China. In 2014 the human rights defender was sentenced to life imprisonment for separatism-related charges.
The EU’s top human rights award will be presented on December 18 at a ceremony in the French city of Strasbourg.
Earlier this month, Tohti received the Council of Europe’s Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize.
The Sakharov Prize is the European Parliament’s top human rights prize, while the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize is awarded by the Council of Europe, which is separate from formal European Union bureaucratic structures but has a large overlap in country memberships and associations.
Wu’er Kaixi, a Chinese exile best known for being one of the student leaders during the 1989 Tiananmen student protests, had this to say:
As a fellow Uyghur, it's heartbreaking that Ilham Tohti, a moderate voice of reason, is serving a life sentence. A courageous friend I never met – me banished from China, he banished to jail. The Sakharov Prize is a fitting acknowledgement of the criminality of the Beijing Regime
— 吾尔开希 Wu'er Kaixi (@wuerkaixi) October 24, 2019
To learn more about the work of Ilham Tohti and his reputation among intellectuals in China, see Ian Johnson’s 2014 piece in the New York Review of Books, titled ‘They don’t want moderate Uighurs.’