Tibet campaigners expressed outrage at the life sentence handed to Uighur academic Ilham Tohti today in Urumqi for “separatism”.  Ilham Tohti, winner of the 2014 PEN Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award [1], is a prominent human rights defender who was detained after launching a website questioning human rights violations against Uighurs and promoting dialogue between Uighurs and Han Chinese.

“This sentence is an outrage and demonstrates how shockingly out of step China is with the free, democratic world, silencing anyone daring to express opinions that do not conform to the State’s view,” said Alison Reynolds, Executive Director of International Tibet Network. [2] “Whilst Ilham Tohti was being tried last week, the people of Scotland were flocking to the polls in a peaceful exercise to determine the future of their nation. What a contrast with China, where Uighurs, Tibetans and Chinese dissidents alike are given hefty sentences for simply questioning China’s policies.”

According to his lawyer, Li Fangping, Ilham called out ‘It’s not just, it’s not just’ as he was dragged out of court. Li Fangping told BBC Chinese, “He told us that no matter the verdict, he will not be angry nor seek revenge. No matter whether he is in jail or if he is freed in the future, he will still advocate for dialogue between Uighurs and Han Chinese.” [3] Ilham Tohti plans to appeal the sentence. Chinese State Media (Xinhua) reported “The Court heard that [he] spread lessons containing separatist thoughts via the website, Uygur Online. He bewitched and coerced young ethnic students to work for the website and built a criminal syndicate, according to the ruling.” [4]

Tibetan blogger and close friend Tsering Woeser, interviewed by Ian Johnson before the verdict, [5] said “They [Chinese authorities] want evidence that he’s advocated independence in his teaching or given away secrets. I went and visited his wife and she said the students were so good. They all said that Teacher Ilham isn’t like that—he never taught us those things. So I think it’s hard for them to find a charge that will stick.”

After today’s sentencing Woeser tweeted “Heartache”. [6] Her husband, dissident writer and scholar Wang Lixiong, tweeted “the authorities created a Uighur Mandela”. [7] Amnesty International has called the verdict “deplorable”. [8] Wang Lixiong_Ilham Tohti_Woeser

Prior to his trial, Ilham said “I am not going anywhere. The issues facing the Uighur are in China, and the resolution of these issues is also in China. If I have to be imprisoned, then I will remain in a Chinese prison. After my release from prison, I will still be in China seeking a future for the Uighurs. If I die, I have only one desire: to be buried in my hometown. It would be enough of a solace for me.” [9]

1. PEN http://www.pen.org/2014-penbarbara-goldsmith-freedom-write-award-ilham-tohti-video
2. International Tibet Network is a global coalition of over 180 Tibet-related NGOs. www.tibetnetwork.org.
3. BBC – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-29321701
4. Xinhua – http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/n/2014/0923/c90882-8786668.html
5. New York Review of Books. http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2014/sep/22/trial-ilham-tohti-they-dont-want-moderate-uighurs/
6. Woeser on Twitter https://twitter.com/degewa/status/514297222574260225
5. Video of Tsering Woeser’s interview with Ilham Tohti, 2009 – http://youtu.be/91LbqqGtQxM
7. Wang Lixiong on Twitter https://twitter.com/wlixiong/status/514287805493551104
8. Amnesty International statement: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/china-deplorable-x-year-jail-sentence-uighur-scholar-2014-09-17
9. See “Ilham Tohti says”, as compiled by Tsering Woeser.

Member Groups of International Tibet Network

Western Europe:
Aide aux Refugies Tibetains
Association Dorje
Association Drôme Ardèche-Tibet
Associazione Italia-Tibet
Briancon05 Urgence Tibet
Caisse d’Aide aux Prisonniers Tibetains
Casa del Tibet – Spain
Comite de Apoyo al Tibet (CAT)
Comite de Soutien au Peuple Tibetain (Les Lilas)
Corse – Tibet
Eco-Tibet France
EcoTibet Ireland
Free Tibet
Groupe Non-Violent Louis Lecoin, France
Grupo de Apoio ao Tibete, Portugal
International Society of Human Rights, Munich Chapter (IGFM)
Jamtse Thundel Association
La Porte du Tibet, Geneva
Les Amis du Tibet – Belgium
Les Amis du Tibet Luxembourg
Lions Des Neiges Mont Blanc, France
Maison des Himalayas
Maison du Tibet – Tibet Info
Nice Tibet
Nos Amis de l’Himalaya
Objectif Tibet
Passeport Tibetain
Phagma Drolma-Arya Tara
Reseau International des Femmes pour le Tibet
Save Tibet, Austria
Society for Threatened Peoples International
Students for a Free Tibet – France
Students for a Free Tibet – UK
Swiss Tibetan Friendship Association (GSTF)
Tibet 59 / 62
Tibet Democratie
Tibet Initiative Deutschland
Tibets Kinder im Exile V.
Tibet Liberte Solidarite
Tibet Libertes, France
Tibet Society, U.K.
Tibet Support Group – Ireland
Tibet Support Group – Netherlands
Tibet Unterstutzung Liechtenstein
Tibetan Association of Germany
Tibetan Community Austria
Tibetan Community in Britain
Tibetan Community in Ireland
Tibetan Youth Association in Europe
Tsowa-Maintenir la Vie, France
Vrienden Van Tibet
Autodétermination-Tibet 09/31
Tibetan Community of Italy
Tibetaanse-Vlaamse Vriendenkring vzw
Lungta Association Belgium

Northern Europe:
Association of Free Tibet
Friends of Tibet in Finland
Swedish Tibet Committee
The Norwegian Tibet Committee
Tibet Support Committee Denmark
Tibetan Community in Denmark
Tibetan Community Sweden
Students for a Free Tibet Denmark

Central & Eastern Europe:
Fair Society o.s.
Friends of Tibet Slovakia
Friends of Tibet Society St. Petersburg, Russia
International Youth Human Rights Group – Human Rights in Tibet
Lithuanian Tibet Culture Foundation
Polish Movement for a Free Tibet
Save Tibet Foundation
Society for Croatia-Tibet Friendship
Students for a Free Tibet, Poland
The Foundation for Civil Society, Russia
Tibet cesky (Tibet in Czech)
Tibet Support Association – Hungary
Tibet Support Group – Krasnodar Region, Russia
Tibet Support Group – Romania
Tibet Support Group – Sochi Region, Russia
Tibetan Community in Poland
Tibetan Programme of The Other Space Foundation
TSG – Slovenia
Union Latvija Tibetai (Latvia for Tibet )
Zida Cels, Latvia
Tibetan Association of Slovakia
Friends of Tibet Bulgaria

North America:
Association Cognizance Tibet, North Carolina
Bay Area Friends of Tibet
Boston Tibet Network
Canada Tibet Committee
Colorado Friends of Tibet
Committee of 100 for Tibet
Dhokam Chushi Gangdruk
International Tibet Independence Movement
Northwest Tibetan Cultural Association
San Diego Friends of Tibet
Santa Barbara Friends of Tibet
Sierra Friends of Tibet
Snow Lion Foundation
Students for a Free Tibet
Students for a Free Tibet – Canada
The Tibetan Alliance of Chicago
The World Tibet Day Foundation
Tibet Committee of Fairbanks
Tibet Justice Center
Tibetan Association of Ithaca
Tibetan Association of Northern California
Tibetan Association of Philadephia
Tibetan Association of Santa Fe
Tibetan Association of Southern California
Tibetan Cultural Association – Quebec
Tibet Oral History Project
Toronto Tibet Youth Congress
U.S. Tibet Committee
Western Colorado Friends of Tibet
Wisconsin Tibetan Association
United Nations for a Free Tibet (UNFFT)
Central and South America
Amigos del Tibet, El Salvador
Asociación Cultural Peruano Tibetana *
Asociación Cultural Tibetano – Costarricense
Casa Tibet Mexico
Centro De Cultura Tibetana – Brazil *
Centro Cultural Colombo Tibetano
Grupo De Apoyo a Tibet Chile *
Grupo Pro-Cultura Tibetana, Chile *
Le Club Francais – Paraguay
Tibet Mx (Pensando en Tibet)
Tibet Group-Panama
Tíbet Patria Libre, Uruguay
Fundación Pro Tibet – Argentina
Friends of Tibet in Costa Rica
World League for Freedom and Democracy

Bharrat Tibbat Sahyog Manch, India
Core Group for Tibetan Cause, India
Foundation for Universal Responsibility of H. H. the Dalai Lama
Gu-Chu-Sum Movement of Tibet
Himalayan Committee for Action on Tibet
India Tibet Friendship Society
Japan Association of Monks for Tibet (Super Sangha)
Lung-Ta Project
Mahatma Gandhi Tibet Freedom Movement
National Campaign for Tibetan Support, India
National Democratic Party of Tibet
Roof of the World Foundation, Indonesia
Students for a Free Tibet Japan
Students for a Free Tibet India
Taiwan Friends of Tibet
Taiwan Tibet Exchange Foundation
The Youth Liberation Front of Tibet, Mongolia and Turkestan
Tibet Lives, India
Tibet Solidarity Forum, Bangladesh
Tibet Support Group Kiku, Japan
Tibet Support Network Japan
Tibetan Student Association, Madras (TSAM)
Tibetan Parliamentary and Policy Research Centre
Tibetan Rights and Freedom Committee (TRFRC)
Tibetan Women’s Association (Central)
Tibetan Youth Congress
Japan Committee of 100 for TIbet
Ns3 Rigpa Community Builder’s Foundation
Anterrashtriya Bharat – Tibbet Sahyog Samiti

A.C.T. Tibet Support Group
Australia Tibet Council
Friends of Tibet New Zealand
Students for a Free Tibet New Zealand
Tibet Action Group of Western Australia
Tibet Support Group Adelaide – Australia
Tibetan Community of Victoria
Tibetan Women Association and Friends Australia (TWAFA)
Sakya Trinley Ling

Africa and Middle East
Israeli Friends of the Tibetan People
Tibet Support Group Kenya
Dalai Lama Movement East Africa