EU’s human rights Sakharov Prize granted to Ilham Tohti, a Chinese Uyghur intellectual

– Human Rights Without Frontiers welcomes the decision of the European Parliament and wishes  Happy Birthday to Ilham Tohti who will be 50 tomorrow, 25 October!

– HRWF (24.10.2019) – Today, the European Parliament on Thursday awarded its Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Ilham Tohti, a Uyghur intellectual sentenced to life imprisonment in China for alleged “separatism”. He will turn 50 tomorrow.

Ilham is an economist fighting for the rights of China’s Uighur minority and the implementation of regional autonomy laws in China. In 2014 he was sentenced to life imprisonment for separatism-related charges.

He has worked for over 20 years on the situation of the Uighur minority and on fostering inter-ethnic dialogue and understanding in China.

Before his arrest in January 2014, he was a vocal advocate for the implementation of regional autonomy laws in China. He founded and ran the Uyghur Online website in Uyghur and Chinese about social issues.

He gained prominence as a moderate voice drawing attention to ethnic tensions in the region and taught at a Beijing university.

More than a million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities are reported to have been held in camps in China’s restive Xinjiang region.

Mr Tohti, seen by many as a moderate voice, has always denied being a separatist.

The EU’s top human rights award will be presented on December 18 at a ceremony in the French city of Strasbourg.

A month ago, Tohti received the Council of Europe’s Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize and in 2017, he won the 2017 Weimar Human Rights award.

For his work in the face of adversity he was also awarded the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award (2014), the Martin Ennals Award (2016).

See also

HRWF Database of news about human rights violations in China

Ilham Tohti, a four-minute video:

Statement to the Uyghur Service, Radio Free Asia before his arrest in July 2013:

My Ideal and the Career Path I have Chosen by Ilham Tohti,

Present-day Ethnic Problems in Winjiang by Ilham Tohti,

Voice of America Interview with Uyghur Professor Ilham Tohti in 2013: interview

CHINA: 60 Falun Gong practitioners sentenced to prison

– (07.10.2019) – – According to information compiled by, the month of August 2019 recorded 60 new cases of Falun Gong practitioners sentenced to prison by the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) court system.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual practice based on the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance. Since the CCP started persecuting the practice in July 1999, many practitioners have been subjected to arrest and detention, imprisonment, torture, forced labor, and even organ harvesting.

The practitioners were sentenced for raising awareness about the persecution of Falun Gong, including telling people about the practice, distributing calendars and brochures with information about Falun Gong, and disseminating information about the persecution using wifi hotspots.

These sentenced practitioners come from 18 provinces and municipalities in China, with the provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang topping the list with 12 cases each. The prison terms ranged from 1 to 11 years, with an average of 3.36 years.

Due to the CCP’s information blockade, the number of Falun Gong practitioners who were sentenced cannot always be reported in a timely manner, nor is all the information readily available.



The police extorted money from, or the court fined, 24 practitioners for a total of 239,000 yuan, with an average of 11,381 yuan per person.

Eleven of the practitioners are 65 or older. Their sentences ranged from one to nine years, with Ms. Ma Yunhua, 70, sentenced to 9 years and fined 20,000 yuan.

The following are snapshots of several of the practitioners who were sentenced.

The full article with documented cases is available
Note: 100 yuan = 13 EUR

China recruits 13 more in its Axis of Shame

Another 13 countries, including Iran, signed the letter supporting the CCP’s horrific treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang

Winter (29.07.2019) – – China continues its efforts at recruiting fellow travelers into its Axis of Shame of countries prepared to sign letters defending the indefensible and claiming that Xinjiang is a heaven of human rights. According to these letters, the dreaded transformation through education camps, where thousands are tortured, killed, or led to commit suicide are in fact “vocational schools.”

The original Axis of Shame, a label Bitter Winter is proud both to have created and to see increasingly used by others, included 37 countries. The CCP has now announced that 13 more have signed, mentioning Iran, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Djibouti, and Palestine. Indeed, that Iran, another egregious violator of religious liberty, was missing among the original 37, was somewhat surprising.

Most countries sign, but realize that what they are doing is not honorable. They are ashamed to be part of the Axis of Shame. They ask the CCP not to make their names public.

Others, among the original signatories, support the CCP with statements and interviews. Some belong to the category of involuntary humor. An “expert” working for Saudi Arabia claimed that, before the enlightened activities of the CCP happily opened their minds, Muslims in Xinjiang were “close-minded.” Perhaps nobody informed the Saudis that the CCP uses “de-saudization” as a synonym of “de-radicalization,” claiming that the resurgence of Muslim pride in China is due to the evil influence of Saudi Arabia. Or can we expect that CCP experts will be invited to Saudi Arabia to “open the mind” of local Muslims?

More involuntary comic relief was offered by statements from the Venezuelan and Cuban embassies in Beijing. The Cubans said that their government is opposed to any efforts aimed at “regime changes” in China and elsewhere. One may vaguely suspect that by “elsewhere” they mean Cuba.

Venezuela stated that “China’s leadership in human rights is indisputable.” This is literally true in Venezuela. Those who would “dispute” that all is well in China, a staunch ally of the Maduro regime-or in Venezuela, for that matter-would go to jail.

What the CCP believes it can achieve by putting together such a shameful circus of human rights violators is unclear. Perhaps, once again, these news are mostly used for domestic consumption in China.

Update July 30: Some media have now published a list, which seems authentic, of the 50 countries part of the Axis of Shame. One European country, Serbia, has unfortunately joined it.

CHINA: Pro-CCP hackers in action FOREF site attacked

Forum for Religious Freedom Europe’s most successful videos ever denounced the persecution against The Church of Almighty God’s refugees in South Korea. A dark hand (or rather a red hand) made them inaccessible.

Bitter Winter (04.08.2019) – – On July 31, 2019, Bitter Winter published an article by Jia Zhigang. Jia was a well-known actor in China. After he converted to The Church of Almighty God, he had to flee China because of persecution and currently lives in South Korea. Our article led many readers to search Google for Jia Zhigang. They discovered that in 2018, he had already been interviewed by Austrian journalist Peter Zoehrer, and the video was posted on the Web site of FOREF, the Forum for Religious Freedom Europe, a NGO whose president is the world-famous human rightsactivist, Dr Aaron Rhodes.

Actually, for a somewhat exceptional coincidence – believers would rather say thanks to the providence of God – Zoehrer happened to be in Seoul for a conference in the same days when the 2018 false “spontaneous demonstrations” against The Church of Almighty God refugees were organized by the CCP and its Korean fellow traveler, Ms. O Myung-ok. The demonstrations were repeated on July 22-24, 2019 and in both cases ended in disgrace.

Zoehrer was able to document the 2018 false demonstrations, and to produce 14 videos where The Church of Almighty God refugees told their stories of detention and torture in China, and harassment in Korea. These videos were the most successful media production of FOREF ever. They have been downloaded or watched by more than 56,000 viewers.

In the last few days, hackers attacked FOREF’s YouTube channel and were able to make eight videos inaccessible, including the one about the false demonstrations of 2018 and seven interviews with members of The Church of Almighty God living in South Korea. One of them was actor Jia Zhigang.

The videos have now been made accessible again. The attack, however, confirms how much the CCP and its minions are afraid of truth. In Communist countries, as Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) used to say, “the lie has become not just a moral category, but a pillar of the State.”

BELGIUM/ CHINA: Belgian embassy in China puts a Uighur family in the hands of Chinese cops

– By Vanessa Frangville, Rune Steenberg –

Foreign Policy (14.06.2019) – – Approximately 1.5 million people, mostly members of the Muslim Uighur ethnic minority, have been held in detention camps in China’s western region of Xinjiang since 2017. The continuing crackdown on Uighur culture, religion, and political expression has resulted in a state of terror throughout the region—and in the destruction of numerous families, with parents, grandparents, and children often separated.

The failure of Muslim countries to speak up for their co-religionists, thanks to economic ties to China, has been much commented on. But while Western countries have been more outspoken on the plight of the Uighur people, they have often been hesitant to act when push comes to shove—even in countries that pride themselves on their advocacy of human rights, such as Belgium.

A tragic recent case highlights this. Ablimit Tursun, a Uighur from Urumqi, Xinjiang, holding Chinese citizenship, was on a business trip to Turkey in 2017 when he was informed that his brother had been detained. His family in Urumqi warned him not to come back, for fear a similar fate could await him. Foreign travel is often used by the Chinese government as an excuse to send people to the camps, as is having relatives overseas.

Tursun fled to Belgium, where he was granted asylum in 2018 and now works full time in a major Belgian company. He immediately began the process of applying for a Belgian family reunification visa for his wife and four children. The visa application included a letter describing the family’s situation as critical, stressing the risk such an application put them in and the need for discretion.

Despite repeated requests by the family to simplify the visa proceedings in order to reduce this risk, the embassy insisted on them making two trips to Beijing. By itself, this put the family in danger: Uighurs traveling outside of Xinjiang are inherently seen as suspicious, monitored by police, and often detained at airports or stations.

On May 26, Tursun’s wife, Wureyetiguli Abula, and their children (who are 5, 10, 12, and 17)  secretly flew from Urumqi to Beijing for the second time to complete the visa application and hand in the last documents to the Belgian Embassy. They arrived on a late-night flight to avoid the airport police and checked into a hotel. Since Uighurs are routinely refused service from hotels, and their visits are often reported to the police, the hotel was pre-booked by a friend. Still, less than an hour after their arrival, after they were forced to show ID to register there, the Beijing police knocked at their door and interrogated them. Police officers came again the next evening, intimidating them and encouraging them to return to Urumqi.

Abula feared that if they were returned to Urumqi, they would be blocked from leaving the region again and possibly sent to the camps. Her fear turned into panic when Belgian consular officials informed her the visa processing could take up to three months and advised that she wait in her home in Xinjiang. In fact, the visas were issued a mere two days later, but by then the damage was already done. The family refused to leave the embassy facilities until the visa application was processed.

A long discussion ensued, and security staff ushered the family out into the embassy’s yard, where they lingered. At 2 a.m., the embassy called the Chinese police to the embassy facilities in order to remove the family. This is an extraordinary measure, only allowed in the most exceptional of circumstances.

As they refused to return to Urumqi voluntarily, they were put under house arrest in the hotel for a day. The next day, the Xinjiang police forcefully entered their room and dragged them into a car. As of June 12, Tursun has not been able to contact his wife and four children for 11 days and has no idea of their whereabouts or health. Friends informed him that the local police had interrogated all his relatives in Turpan and Urumqi, had searched his home, and had taken away the family’s electronic devices. Those relatives may, in turn, be at risk of being sent to the camps.

Abula and her children’s experience was typical of the oppression, discrimination, and absence of freedom experienced by many ordinary Uighurs in China. Abula was not able to travel freely to Beijing, she could not herself buy a ticket for travel out of Xinjiang, and she could not book a hotel room. The mere presence of a middle-aged woman and her children drew the attention of several police officers.

But there are also serious concerns raised by the behavior of the Belgian Embassy, which showed reckless carelessness and a lack of responsibility. The Belgian Embassy was repeatedly informed of the danger it would pose to Abula and her children to have to travel to Beijing several times at different occasions, yet still they insisted. Not only was a request for refuge at the embassy refused, but embassy staff also voluntarily called the police in the middle of the night—effectively sealing the fate of a vulnerable family.

CHINA: Xi Jinping to teachers: Nourish the faith in the Chinese Communist Party

– In his “important speech”, the president asked educators to instill patriotism in young people and reject “misconceptions and ideologies”. Since 2012, a struggle against the spread of “Western values” and the ban on religious education for young people is underway in schools and universities.

AsiaNews (21.03.2019) – “Nourishing” faith in the Chinese Communist Party and rejecting “misconceptions and ideologies”: this is the program that Chinese president Xi Jinping proposed to a group of teachers gathered yesterday in the capital for a seminar on “ideological theory” and politics “.

According to Xinhua, Xi gave an “important speech”. In it, the party leader, who is also general secretary and head of the military commission, said that starting with toddlers China must “nurture generation after generation [of young people] who support Chinese Communist Party rule and China’s socialist system”.

“Most importantly,” he added “we must emphasise [taking the correct stance] on politics such that people who have faith [in the party] can preach what they believe in.”

He also asked all educators to instill patriotism in young people and reject “misconceptions and ideologies”.

Since Xi took power in 2012, the Party has launched a battle against the spread of “Western values” in schools and universities, banning books that promote “Western ideas” such as democracy and the rule of law.

At the same time, those who spread “religious” ideas among students are prosecuted. In the name of “patriotism” students are required to reject religions, especially those that come “from the West”, that is Christianity, making students swear to fight them.

The new regulations on religious activities prohibit young people under 18 from going to church or receiving a religious education.