A prominent blogger and scholar from the Uighur region of China was sentenced to life in prison Sept. 23.
A Chinese court convicted Ilham Tohti, a member of China’s mostly Muslim minority population, of advocating for separating from China after a two-day, closed-door trial, according to the New York Times.
Tohti was taken into custody by police from his home in Beijing last January and taken to the western region of Xianjiang for the trial. The court ordered confiscation of all his assets, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
"This provides yet another grim reminder of China's repressive and unrelenting approach when it comes to critical or moderate ethnic minority voices,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia Program Coordinator, in a CPJ report. “No journalist should face such severe punishment.”
The Chinese authorities accused Tohti of being critical of China’s treatment of Uighurs. His website, Uighur Online, discussed pressures on the ethnic minority, especially after Uighur separatists were blamed for a violent attack in Beijing.
In court, officials dubbed Tohti the “ringleader” of a separatist Uighur group of seven students, who have also been detained and are currently awaiting trial, according to the New York Times.
Prosecutors also argued that Uighur Online “internationalized” the region’s issues, by publishing translated articles and providing interviews to international media outlets, according to CPJ.
Tohti’s website is still shut down according the Washington Post.