|Academic Ilham Tohti said tensions needed to be reduced in Xinjiang|
They hope this will put pressure on China to stop its crackdown of the minority group.
Tohti, an ethnic Uyghur economist, writer and professor at Minzu University in Beijing, has been serving a life sentence since 2014 on separatism-related charges.
However, he was vocal about the need to reduce tensions in Xinjiang, and asked Beijing to abide by the region's existing laws, reduce economic discrimination, and establish a legal system.
|Tohti was sentenced to life in prison in 2014|
It is believed more than a million Uyghurs are being held in extrajudicial internment camps in Xinjiang, a crackdown that started in 2017, that the government claims is an anti-terrorist measure. The authorities later claimed these camps help the ethnic minority to learn better job skills to make them more employable.
Two weeks ago, representatives Christopher Smith and Thomas Suozzi introduced a bill called the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, that empowers the State Department, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to hold accountable Chinese officials who intimidate Uyghurs overseas.
"It's encouraging to see that the issue is attracting more interest," said Sean Roberts, director of the International Development Studies Program at George Washington University.
|Tohti was recently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize|
If Tohti does win the Nobel Peace Prize, it would draw attention to his imprisonment and pressure on China to release him.
However, we can probably guess China's reaction with the fate of previous 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo who died in 2017 on medical parole.
We don't even know how Tohti is doing...