Press Release

Enver Can, September 23, 2017


Today Uyghurs commemorate with sorrow the third anniversary of Prof. Ilham Tohti's sentencing to life imprisonment for wanting the implementation of the Autonomy Laws in the Chinese Constitution, ethnic harmony and dialogue between Uyghurs and the Han.

   Prof. Tohti began his studies in 1985 at the institution that is today the Central Minzu University in Beijing, known for minority studies. He eventually became a faculty member at the same university and a recognized expert on economic and social issues pertaining to Xinjiang and Central Asia. As a scholar, he has been forthright about problems and abuses in Xinjiang, and his work led to official surveillance and harassment that began as early as 1994. From time to time he was barred from teaching, and after 1999 he was unable to publish in normal venues.

   In order to make the economic, social and developmental issues confronting the Uyghurs known to China’s wider population, Ilham Tohti established the Chinese-language website in 2006 to foster dialogue and understanding between Uyghurs and Chinese on the Uyghur Issue. Over the course of its existence it was shut down periodically and people writing for it were harassed. Ilham Tohti has adamantly rejected separatism and sought reconciliation by bringing to light Uyghur grievances, information the Chinese state has sought to keep behind a veil of silence. As a result of his efforts he was sentenced to life in prison in September 2014 following a two-day show trial. Despite political persecution in the years leading up to his trial, he remained a voice of moderation and reconciliation.

   In words and actions, Ilham Tohti has for years promoted peace and dialogue between the Han Chinese and Uyghur communities. He opposed separatism, the use of terror to voice grievances, and any act that fans ethnic animus, as well as government policies that undermine the Uyghur language and economically marginalize the Uyghur people. As a Uyghur intellectual specializing in Xinjiang issues and Central Asian sociology, economics, and geopolitics, he took it upon himself to criticize current affairs concerning Xinjiang and its people, faithfully fulfilling the duty of a public intellectual.

   Ilham Tohti is the recipient of the Barbara Goldsmith “Freedom to Write” Award from the PEN America Center in 2014, and the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2016. He was one of the four finalists for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2016. Ilham Tohti is the recipient of the Liberal International's Prize For Freedom scheduled on November 30th 2017 at The Hague, Netherland, and the 2017 Human Rights Award from the city of Weimar scheduled on December 12th 2017, Germany.

   Prof. Tohti has been kept in the No. 1 Prison of Urumqi since December 2014. In spite of the Chinese law stipulates, he is not enjoying his right of proper visitations and is de facto kept incommunicado. This is a calculated and cruel deprivation. Observers say that the combination of reduced visits, denial of communication, gag orders, and family reprisals, have been carefully engineered to punish the Uyghur scholar with degrading treatment and psychological torture, while at the same time keeping the attention on his plight from the outside world to a minimum.

   We call on the Chinese government to unconditionally release Prof. Ilham Tohti and his students and urge the International Community, including the UN human Rights Institutions, the governments, the European Union and all human rights NGOs to press for his freedom.




Press Release

Ilham Tohti Initiative e.V., Karlsfeld, Germany

July 29, 2017


The Ilham Tohti Initiative condemns the brief detention of Mr. Dolkun Isa, the General Secretary of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), on 26th of July in Rome and urges the Italian government to clarify the exact reason behind this action. Mr. Isa was on his way to the Italian Senate to attend a Conference on the human rights situation of the Uyghur people when he was approached by 15 to 20 General Investigations and Special Operations Division (DIGOS) officers. They took him to the police Station and released a few hours later after questioning.


However, this not the first such incident: Mr Isa’s detention came less than three months after he was removed from a United Nations forum in New York by security guards without explanation on April 26th. Two days later, he was again denied entry to take part in a forum hosted by the UNPO. Mr. Isa was also denied entry to South Korea and has been arrested on 15th of September 2009 at the airport in Seoul.


 But Mr. Isa's detention in an EU member state is the last drop filling the bottle. Mr. Isa is a German citizen. Thus, Mr. Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman of the WUC says in a statement that detention of a human rights activist in a EU member state, on China's request, is both shocking and unacceptable. Responding to a question by Mr. Isa, as to why he was detained, the DIGOS officers informed him that they had been acting upon a request from the Chinese authorities.


Interpol has issued an international alert on Mr. Isa several years ago based on what he called a “politically motivated and baseless request” by the Chinese government, and the alert was later rejected by the German authorities, who viewed it as a “political warrant,” he told the DIGOS officers. In November last year, China’s Deputy Minister of Public Security Meng Hongwei was elected president of Interpol, which in turn raised concern by international human rights bodies that China might use the position to her own advantage.


The Ilham Tohti Initiative is both worried about the long arm of China being extended to democratic countries in Europe and the ever increasing influence which Beijing is practicing in some EU member states. Thus the ITI calls the Italian government not to ever let the Chinese government interfere with its internal issues.


Enver Can
Ilham Tohti Initiative e.V.



Press Release

Ilham Tohti Initiative e.V., Karlsfeld, Germany

July 13, 2017


The Ilham Tohti Initiative expresses its deep sorrow upon the death of Liu Xiaobo. He will forever stand as a symbol both of a wide ranging struggler for human rights and democracy. Mr. Liu dedicated his life to the betterment of his country and humankind, and to the pursuit of jusitce and liberty.

Mr. Liu, the courageous Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, played an instrumental role during the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 and worked for years speaking and writing publicly about the importance of democracy.

His case appropriately embodies China’s continued efforts to silence peaceful critics, intimidate dissidents and stifle a much needed conversation about what approach will truly benefit Chinese, Uyghurs, Tibetans and other etnicities in China.

We believe the Chinese Communist regime is responsible for Liu Xiaobo's death, because it never allowed him early diagnosis and proper medical treatment and denied his wish to seek medical treatment abroad.

We offer our deepest condolences to Liu Xiaobo's devoted wife Liu Xia and all of his loved ones.




27. Juni 2017

Die Ilham Tohti Initiative begrüßt die Freilassung des chinesischen Friedensnobelpreisträgers Liu Xiaobo, damit er sich einer Behandlung seiner Krebserkrankung unterziehen kann, macht aber zugleich die chinesische Regierung für seinen schlechten Gesundheitszustand verantwortlich. Wir sind überzeugt, dass die chinesische Führung mit seiner Freilassung lediglich der Kritik der internationalen Gemeinschaft zuvorkommen wollte, für den Fall er im Gefängnis seiner Krankheit erlegen wäre.

Die internationale Gemeinschaft muss Peking dringend an seine Verantwortung mahnen, ehe alle zum Schweigen gebracht werden, die es wie Liu Xiaobo und Ilham Tohti zu sagen wagen, dass die Achtung der Menschenrechte, Demokratie, Rechtsstaatlichkeit und Umsetzung der bestehenden Gesetze China zu einer stärkeren, erfolgreicheren und höher angesehenen Weltmacht werden ließen.

Enver Can  


Press Release
3. März 2017


The situation in Xinjiang is rapidly deteriorating. We, the members of ITI, deplore the fact that Xinjiang’s Communist Party secretary Chen Quanguo should use such vocabulary : “Bury the corpses of terrorists and terror gangs in the vast sea of the people’s war” when mentioning the hundreds of people who have died under the violent movement of repression which is actually taking place in Xinjiang.

We believe the arrest and sentencing of Ilham Tohti has left a huge scar in the Uyghur people’s hearts and minds. Now that the most well known Uyghur intellectual, who always asked for dialogue, prosperity and peace in East Turkestan is not free to express the ideas that could have brought about better times for the Uyghur population in their own region, there is no space left for anything but violence. We request the immediate liberation of Ilham Tohti to bring pack peace and understanding in East Turkestan, also known as Xinjiang.

Enver Can, President of ITI, Munich; Marie Holzman, President of Solidarité Chine, Paris



Ilham Tohti Initiative e.V.

 8 February 2017

 A P P E A L

Ilham Tohti is the most renowned Uyghur public intellectual in the People’s Republic of China. For over two decades he has worked tirelessly to foster dialogue and understanding between Uyghurs and Chinese over the present-day repressive religious, cultural and political conditions of the Uyghurs, a Muslim Turkic people living mostly in modern China’s northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. As a result of his efforts he was sentenced in September 2014, to life in prison following a two-day show trial. He remains a voice of moderation and reconciliation in spite of what has been done to him.

In spite of the fact that Professor Ilham Tohti has been living in Beijing for over twenty years, has a “Beijing resident status”, has a wife and two young children living in the Chinese capital, he has been sent away to Xinjiang and is now in jail in the Urumqi Number One Prison.


We fear that the fact Ilham Tohti is so far away from his family, that none of his lawyers has access to him, that his wife can only travel to Xinjiang once a year, because of her two young children, makes the situation most worrying for his mental and physical health.


We appeal to all Members of the European Parliament, to all the heads of State of the European Union to ask the Chinese government to release Ilham Tohti immediately or at least send Ilham Tohti back to Beijing if he is to continue serving his sentence.


Enver Can, Karlsfeld, Germany