January 15, 2019

China: RSF and NGO coalition demand release of citizen-journalist, jailed for life

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and several human rights organizations demand the immediate release of citizen-journalist Ilham Tohti, who has been held in Chinese custody for five years and sentenced to life imprisonment for "separatism".

In a letter published today, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and a coalition of human rights organizations call on Beijing to immediately release Uyghur-born citizen-journalist, Ilham Tohti, 49, a former economics professor in Central University of Nationalities, Beijing.

Exactly five years ago, on January 15, 2014, the Chinese authorities closed Uighur Online (Uighurbiz) and arrested its founder Ilham Tohti and other collaborators. A few months later, after a closed trial, the Urumqi District Court (Xinjiang, West) sentenced Tohti to life imprisonment on charges of "separatism".

The collective is made up of the following associations: Amnesty International, ChinaChange, CSW, Free Tibet, Frontline Defenders, Ilham Tohti Initiative, International Campaign for Tibet, International Tibet Network, PEN International, Reporters Without Borders, Scholars at Risk, Society for Threatened Peoples, Taiwan Association for Human Rights, Tibet Initiative Deutschland, Tibet Justice Center, Tibet Watch, Unrepresented, Nations and Peoples Organization, Uyghur Human Rights Project and World Uyghur Congress.

China is the largest prison in the world for journalists, with more than 60 of them behind bars. In the 2018 World Press Freedom Index published by RSF, the country stagnates at 176th place out of 180.

See the joint letter in full below