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Indiana Student Fights For Release of Father Imprisoned In China

J.D. Gray

A student from China is continuing the fight to free her father from a life sentence in prison that she says is unfair.

Jewher Ilham spoke Monday at Ivy Tech Community College about her ongoing efforts to secure her father’s release.

Ilham says she hasn’t talked to her father, Ilhom Tohti, in more than 2 years.

She says Tohti is serving a life sentence in China on charges of separatism for a minority group in China.

Initially, Ilham was detained with her father at a Chinese airport while on a trip to Indiana University.  She was eventually released, and is living in the U.S.

Ilham maintains her father is innocent of the charges, and was advocating for human rights issues.

She spoke to the U.S. Congress, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times and published a book about her work trying to get her father out of prison.

Tohti’s family submitted two appeals, but both were rejected by the Chinese government.

Ilham says she hopes to visit her family someday, but she worries her activism puts her at risk.

“I think, maybe, the same thing [that] happened to my father might happen to me," she says.

Ilham is enrolled as a student at Indiana University and Ivy Tech Community College.