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Chinese Rights Activists Win Prizes

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The prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law and Sakharov Prize were granted to Chinese activists, the Human rights lawyer, Li Wenzu and to the Uyghur activist Ilham Tohti.

An “exceptional contribution”

France and Germany awarded Chinese activist Li Wenzu a rights prize on Wednesday.

The two governments claimed Li had made an “exceptional contribution” to human rights in China. She received their Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law on Dec. 10 at the French embassy in Beijing.

As she left her house, however, she was met by state security. They tailed her to the embassy, but she evaded them.

Several other prominent activists had been invited to the ceremony, but authorities prevented them from coming.

Li is the wife of imprisoned Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang. Wang went missing in July 2015, during a crackdown on his profession, and resurfaced behind bars three years later. Since his disappearance, Li has taken up the mantle of advocating on behalf of him and other wrongfully jailed attorneys. 

In 2016, Wang Qiaoling, Li’s friend and the wife of the now-freed human rights lawyer Li Heping, won the prize. 

In China, attorneys who represent individuals targeted by the government, often find themselves behind bars or subjected to official scrutiny.

Both women have said the award has raised morale in the Chinese human rights community.

Uyghur activist receives Sakharov Prize

The European Parliament has awarded a freedom prize to jailed Uyghur activist Ilham Tohti.

Tohti is an economist and academic who critiqued China’s financial policies toward Xinjiang. Concerned about the plight of his people, he formed Uyghur Online, and he published pieces on their struggle. For his work, he is a renowned scholar on Uyghur issues. 

China, however, accused him of being a separatist and inciting “ethnic hatred” and sentenced him to life in prison.

The European Parliament announced yesterday they chose to award Tohti with the 2019 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. On Twitter, the Parliament said Tohti had worked “tirelessly in defence of the rights of China’s Uyghur minority….”

Jewher, Ilham, Tohti’s daughter, will accept the prize on his behalf.

The Sakharov Prize is named after Andrei Sakharov, a Soviet dissident, and scientist who worked for human rights.

For several years now, China’s treatment of Uyghurs, a Turkic group living in Xinjiang, has come under scrutiny. More than 1 million Uyghurs have been placed in a network of camps on either falsified or non-existent charges. Camp survivors have reported torture, starvation, and forced labor, even though China has said they are vocational training facilities.

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