Chinese New Year: A New Year for Human Rights

Shi Tao, a Chinese journalist, is serving a 10-year prison sentence in China for sending an email to the USA using his Yahoo account.

Yesterday was the first day of the Chinese New Year, marking an important celebration in Chinese culture. 2011 is the year of the Rabbit, an auspicious sign embodying friendship, negotiation, cooperation, and ambition. This is a great year to push for human rights change in China.

Join us in sending greeting cards to Chinese authorities, wishing them a happy New Year and asking them to release prisoners of conscience like Shi Tao, who has been in prison since 2004 simply for sending an email.

Also, let Shi Tao know you are thinking of him and that he is not alone. There is no better way to link the principles of friendship and ambition than by committing ourselves to the pursuit of human rights for all this New Year.  Thanks for taking action with us!

Uighur Blogger Still Held

Since July 8, Ilham Tohti, editor of the Web site Uighur Online and a professor at Central Nationalities University in Beijing, has been held incommunicado by Chinese authorities. He was interrogated after posting articles on the site and his personal blog about a clash between members of China’s majority ethnic Han group and Uighurs in Guangdong Province on June 26.

The Uighurs are a Muslim minority group in China most of whom live in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in northwestern China. For two decades now Chinese authoirities have been pursuing a campaign in the area against “terrorism, separatism and religious extremism,” in the process have diluting the Uighur population and severely restricting the civil and cultural rights of Uighurs. Ilham Tohti’s case is in no way isolated. Although authorities in XUAR set up a media center for foreign journalists in Urumqi during the recent violence, reporters have been prevented – by police, other security forces or even just people on the street – from reporting freely in the XUAR. One New York Times reporter described tour guides in Kashgar who refused to lead him around the city and translators who feared repercussions if they were to translate certain conversations. Clearly Chinese authorities fear what the people of Kashgar might say to journalists, but what’s even worse is that they’re causing residents in the XUAR to fear expressing their opinions.

All this repression suggests the unliklihood of an independent inquiry into the events last month in Xinjiang as well as open, fair trials for those who have been detained. Take action now for Ilham Tohti!