China is angry with the European Parliament about awarding the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought to Uighur activist Ilham Tohti. Tohti is "a convicted criminal for Beijing," the Foreign Ministry said.
Beijing said it hoped that Europe would respect China's internal affairs and legal sovereignty and not show support for terrorists. A government spokesperson told them not to know what the price does not exactly entail. But I do know that Ilham Tohti is a criminal convicted by Chinese courts, she added.
lham Tohti is a former professor at the University of Beijing. For years he argued for more rights for the Uighur population in the Chinese province of Xinjiang. Many Uyghurs feel suppressed by the Chinese government. According to human rights organizations, up to a million Uyghurs in Sinkiang are being held in political re-education camps.
Tohti himself was sentenced to life imprisonment five years ago on charges of separatism and incitement to ethnic hatred and violence. By giving him the prize, the European Parliament puts the spotlight on the situation of the Uighur minority in China. & #8220; We strongly urge the Chinese government to release Tohti and to respect the rights of minorities in China & #8221 ;, said David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament.
Earlier in 2010, Beijing protested when the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo received the Nobel Peace Prize. But because the European Union is also very important for China in economic terms, the protest is now only words.
The Sakharov Prize is named after the Soviet dissident and Nobel Prize winner Andrei Sakharov. Last year the prize went to the Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov. Nelson Mandela was one of the earlier winners.