World Bulletin / News Desk
Tohti, 46, a former prominent economics lecturer at a Beijing university, was arrested in January 2014 accused of promoting the separation of Xinjiang -- China's most westerly province -- from China.
Xinjiang is home to a number of ethnic groups including the Uighur, a Turkic-speaking minority who make up 45 percent of the population.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein attended Tuesday’s ceremony in Geneva during which the award was presented to Tohti's son Ilham Cevher.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang criticized the granting of the award to the scholar, telling a press conference Wednesday that “Tohti’s criminal activity was supported by solid evidence.”
Geng also criticized the UN’s Zeid for attending the ceremony, saying that the move "severely goes against the principles and purposes of the UN Charter" and "interferes in China's domestic affairs".
Human rights organizations, activists and analysts have said that Uighur have been subject to religious, cultural and language restrictions, which have led them to flee China.