An academic jailed for separatism in China has been awarded the European Parliament’s top human rights prize.
Ilham Tohti, who is from the Uighur minority, has been a fierce critic of China’s treatment of the Uighur people. He was jailed for life in 2014.
More than a million Uighurs 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 denied being a separatist.
Although still in jail, Mr Tohti, 49, has been recognised for drawing attention to ethnic tensions in Xinjiang. A ceremony awarding him the Sakharov Prize in his absence will be held in Strasbourg in December.
China had accused him of separatism and stoking ethnic tensions. The economics scholar’s imprisonment provoked condemnation from human rights groups, with the UN, the EU and US calling for his release.
The EU Parliament said Mr Tohti deserved the Sakharov Prize for his attempts to “foster dialogue” between Chinese people and the Uighur. “The parliament calls on the Chinese authorities to release him immediately,” EU Parliament President David Sassoli said.
The Sakharov Prize for free speech is awarded by the EU Parliament annually in memory of Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov.
Other nominees for the 2019 prize included Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, prominent Brazilian gay rights activist Jean Wyllys and the Restorers, a group of student app developers from Kenya.
Previous winners have included Pakistani schoolgirl and campaigner Malala Yousafzai (2013), Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas (2010) and two Yazidi women who escaped Islamic State (2016).
SOURCE: BBC News China