Uighur intellectual nominated for top European rights award

Uighur intellectual nominated for top European rights award
The Chinese government’s fears of an independent Uighur identity. (AP)
Updated 28 August 2019

Uighur intellectual nominated for top European rights award

Uighur intellectual nominated for top European rights award
  • Tohti is one of three nominees for the 2019 Vaclav Havel prize
  • The economics professor who was sentenced to life in prison in 2014 after being convicted of separatism

STRASBOURG: Europe's top rights body, the Council of Europe, has nominated a jailed academic from China's Uighur minority, Ilham Tohti, for one of the continent's top human rights awards.
The economics professor who was sentenced to life in prison in 2014 after being convicted of separatism, "has worked for over 20 years on the situation of the Uighur minority and on fostering inter-ethnic dialogue and understanding in China," the Council's parliamentary assembly said in a statement after meeting Monday in Prague.
Tohti is one of three nominees for the 2019 Vaclav Havel prize, along with Tajik human rights lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov and a youth group promoting post-war reconciliation in the Balkans.
The winner of the 60,000-euro prize will be announced on September 30 in Strasbourg, home of the 47-country Council of Europe which founded the the European Court of Human Rights.
Tohti has also been nominated by US lawmakers for the Nobel Peace Prize.
His nomination for the European prize comes as China's treatment of the Uighurs -- a Muslim, Turkic-speaking minority concentrated in China's tightly-controlled northwestern Xinjiang region -- comes under growing scrutiny.
Rights groups and experts say more than one million mostly Muslim ethnic minorities have been interned in re-education camps in Xinjiang.
China initially denied the existence of the camps before later admitting to running what it called "vocational education centres", which it presented as necessary to combat religious extremism and boost employment.
Last month, Beijing said "most" of those being held had now returned home, without providing details.
Previous winners of the Vaclav Havel prize, named after the late Czech dissident and former president, include Nobel laureate Nadia Murad, a Yazidi activist who survived torture and rape by the Islamic State, and Oyub Titiyev, a Chechen rights activist who spent 18 months in a Russian jail.


Britain tightens borders to keep out new COVID-19 variants

Britain tightens borders to keep out new COVID-19 variants
Updated 15 January 2021

Britain tightens borders to keep out new COVID-19 variants

Britain tightens borders to keep out new COVID-19 variants
  • Johnson is grappling to control a third wave of the virus and prevent the health service from collapse
  • The rule changes come into force at 0400 GMT on Monday

LONDON: Britain is tightening border controls to block new variants of COVID-19, suspending all “travel corridor” arrangements that had meant arrivals from some countries did not require quarantine.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is grappling to control a third wave of the virus and prevent the health service from collapse while also racing to vaccinate millions each week.
“What we don’t want to see is all that hard work undone by the arrival of a new variant that is vaccine-busting,” he told a news conference, explaining the end of travel corridors at least until Feb. 15.
The rule changes come into force at 0400 GMT on Monday and mean all passengers must have a recent negative coronavirus test and transfer immediately into isolation upon arrival.
Isolation lasts for 10 days, unless the passenger tests negative after five.
On Thursday, Britain banned arrivals from South America, Portugal and some other countries over fears about a variant detected in Brazil.
Britain’s current lockdowns ban most international travel meaning that airline schedules are currently minimal, but the withdrawal of any quarantine-free travel will be a further blow for an industry already on its knees.
UK-based airline easyJet said there was no immediate impact from Johnson’s announcement, but in a statement added: “We need to ensure that travel corridors are put back in place when it is safe to do so.”
Britain has already felt the effects of mutations in the virus, after a variant first discovered in England has proved to be more transmissible.
Critics say the government has been too slow to act and previously left borders wide open.
Much of the criticism prior to Friday’s announcement has focused on whether rules requiring arriving passengers to quarantine are actually being enforced, with anecdotal evidence that few checks are made.
“We will be stepping up our enforcement, both at the border and in country,” Johnson said.