Socialists and Democrats call on the Chinese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Ilham Tohti, an economist fighting for the rights of China’s Uyghur minority, and this year’s winner of the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
Our group will support the resolution that will be voted tomorrow, strongly condemning the practice of the ‘re-education camps’ in Xinjiang, in which - as confirmed in the so called ‘China leaks’ - about one million Uyghurs and ethnic Kazakhs are detained without trials, often for no other reason than being Muslim. We will call on the member states to work on targeted sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for this grave violation of human rights.
The S&D Group is deeply dismayed that Ilham Tohti could not come to Strasbourg to personally collect the prize. Sentenced to life imprisonment by China on trumped-up charges, following the show trial in 2014, he is today represented by his brave daughter Jehwer. He is a leading Uyghur intellectual, economist and scholar whose only offence was to advocate for peace and the rights of the Uyghurs - a mostly Muslim minority group in China’s western region of Xinjiang.
Kati Piri, S&D vice-president for foreign affairs, said:
“There is more and more evidence that the Chinese government is responsible for massive human rights violations of the Uyghur minority in the country. By granting the Sakharov Prize to Ilham Tohti, we want to put the spotlight on the need for peace and the full respect of human rights, universal and indivisible and at the core of the Union's external action.
“We urge the Chinese authorities to immediately release Tohti, and all activists detained for their work in defence of human rights.
“It is unacceptable that Tohti is not even granted unrestricted access to his family and lawyers. We also urge for an impartial investigation into the alleged torture against Tohti so that those responsible are brought to justice.”
MEP Isabel Santos, S&D spokesperson on human rights, added:
“Tohti is proof once again that China continues its systematic policy of oppression and disrespect for the most elementary civil liberties enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Such a policy is also evident in Xinjiang and in Tibet, where true cultural genocide is being experienced.
“Centres for re-education, torture, disappearances and extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations continue to exist in China. Europe cannot be indifferent or insensitive to these atrocities. We must define a relationship strategy with China that will persuade them to close the camps and put an end to all human rights violations in Xinjiang and Tibet.”
MEP Evelyne Gebhardt, vice-chair of the EP delegation for relations with China and S&D negotiator of the resolution, stated:
“The recent disclosure of the ‘China Cables’ confirms that the situation in Xinjiang has rapidly deteriorated over the last years, as the Chinese government is resolutely persecuting the Uyghur people for their faith and strives to eliminate their cultural identity. An investigation into the internment camps by independent experts is urgently needed. Chinese authorities should provide information about the locations and medical conditions of those detained. All camps and detention centres must be closed and the persons detained must be released immediately and unconditionally.
“We expect the member states to adopt targeted sanctions against the Chinese officials responsible for the mass detention of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang and severe repression of religious freedom in the region. Respect for human rights and the rule of law are indisputable conditions for further deepening the relations between China and the European Union.”