Smith Leads Bipartisan Letter Nominating Uyghur Intellectual Ilham Tohti for the Nobel Peace Prize
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), the former chairs of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), today nominated imprisoned Chinese citizen Ilham Tohti for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
Ilham Tohti is an ethnic Uyghur economist, writer, and professor currently serving a life sentence for his attempts to promote harmony and understanding between ethnic Han Chinese and Uyghur Muslims in China.
“Ilham Tohti deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, not a prison sentence. He devoted his life to fostering peaceful relations between ethnic communities in China and for this he was jailed, tortured, and his family threatened and financially ruined,” Smith said. “His work was important and should be recognized now more than ever. The Chinese government is engaged in a repugnant campaign to forcibly assimilate and destroy the religion and culture of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in China, interning over a million people in ‘political reeducation’ camps. While the Chinese government has needlessly created division and despair, Ilham Tohti tried to promote peaceful reconciliation and tolerance; for this he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.”
Smith and Rubio led a letter nominating Tohti for the Nobel Peace Prize, signed by a bipartisan and bicameral group of lawmakers. The letter can be found here.
Over a million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim ethnic minorities in China have been interned in “political reeducation” camps, and entire families of Uyghur advocates for human rights have disappeared, including the family members of many U.S. citizens. There are reports of torture and forced labor in the camps, with possible export of goods made by forced labor in these camps to the U.S. market.
Tohti was the winner of the 2014 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award and the 2016 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. Additional information about his case can be found on the CECC’s Political Prisoner Database, a searchable database with information on over 1,300 known political and religious prisoners in China.
In addition to the Nobel Peace Prize nomination, Smith (along with Rep. Tom Suozzi) introduced the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act (H.R. 649) in January to focus the resources of the State Department, FBI, and Commerce Department to address the mass internment of Uyghurs and other egregious human rights abuses in China.