Friday, October 28, 2011

Rebiya Kadeer

Rebiya Kadeer (born 15 July 1948) is a prominent Uyghur businesswoman and political activist from the northwest region of Xinjiang Autonomus Region of the People's Republic of China (PRC). She has been the president of the World Uyghur Congress since November 2006.

Kadeer has been active in defending the rights of the largely Muslim Uyghur minority, who she says has been subject to systematic oppression by the Chinese government. Kadeer is currently living in exile in the United States.

Early Life and Career
Rebiya Kadeer was born into poverty in the city of Altay, Xinjiang. She married in 1965 and moved to the city of Aksu, Xinjiang. During the Cultural Revolution, she was purged as a class enemy after a clothing business which she ran with her husband was branded as "speculation", resulting in her divorce.

Following her divorce, Kadeer opened a laundromat in 1976. She later remarried in 1981 to Sidik Rouzi, then an associate professor, and moved to Ürümqi. In Ürümqi, Kadeer leased a market in the local business district, converting it into a department store that specialized in Uyghur ethnic costumes. In 1985, Kadeer converted the site again to a 14,000 square meter commercial building.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kadeer engaged in cross-border trade, accumulating assets which at their peak were worth more than 200 million yuan. She became one of the five richest people in China, and her success earned her the nickname "the millionairess". The trading company she established had businesses operating in China, Russia and Kazakhstan. She has given birth to eleven children. The Akida Industry and Trade Co founded by Kadeer, owns a number of properties in Xinjiang. These include The Akida Trade Center, the adjacent Kadeer Trade Center and the Tuanjie, or Unity, theatre in Ürümqi.

Kadeer was an active philanthropist within the community, most notably through her foundation, 1,000 Families Mothers Project, a charity intended to help Uyghur women start their own local businesses. In 1993, Kadeer was appointed delegate to the eighth session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the National People's Congress and was a representative to the UN Fourth World Conference for Women in Beijing in 1995. Kadeer has also been vice chairwoman of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region Federation of Industry and Commerce, and vice chairwoman of the Xinjiang Association of Women Entrepreneurs.

In 1997, Kadeer established the "Thousand Mothers Movement", to promote job training for Uyghur women, as well as evening schools for Uyghurs who did not have chance to go to ordinary school.

Having been a witness to the Ghulja Incident in 1997, Kadeer says she failed in her repeated attempts to persuade Beijing that change was needed. Feeling that she had no choice, she openly criticised the government in a speech before parliament, and was promptly removed from the National People's Consultative Conference; authorities revoked her passport. In 1999 she sent newspaper clippings to her exiled husband, Sidik Rouzi, who was living in the United States and who is active in protesting against Chinese policies towards the Uyghur people. Kadeer was detained in August 1999 while on her way to meet a US Congressional Research Service delegation investigating the situation in Xinjiang at the time, and was alleged to be in possession of a list of 10 people "suspected of having a connection with national separatist activities". She was detained by PRC authorities on charges of "leaking state secrets", and was convicted on 10 March 2000 in the Ürümqi Intermediate People's Court, of "endangering state security", after sending her husband newspaper clippings on the treatment of the Uyghur community.

Whilst in prison, Kadeer spent two years in solitary confinement, but was not tortured. She speculates that this was because guards were aware of her international reputation. In 2004, her sentence was reduced by a year based on citations of good behaviour where she was being held.

Release and Exile
In 2004 she won the Rafto Prize for human rights. On 14 March 2005, Kadeer was released early, nominally on medical grounds, into United States' custody in advance of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region. The U.S., which had pressured for her release, agreed to drop a resolution against China in the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch moderated their criticism somewhat as a consequence. On 17 March, Kadeer flew to the U.S. and joined her family in Washington, D.C. In an interview with Phoenix Television before her departure to the US, she stated that she would remain a citizen of the People's Republic of China, and as a person born in the new China, she would sacrifice her own life for the integrity of China.

In April 2007, one of her sons, Ablikim, was sentenced to 9 years in prison and 3 years deprivation of political rights, reportedly after confessing to charges of "instigating and engaging in secessionist activities." In November 2006 Alim, another of her sons, was sentenced to 7 years in prison and fined $62,500. Qahar Abdurehim, yet another of her sons, was fined $12,500 for tax evasion but not jailed. In June 2006, Alim, Ablikim, and Qahar were officially charged with state security and economic crimes shortly following Kadeer' election as president of the Uighur American Association.

The Chinese government characterizes Kadeer as "an ironclad separatist colluding with terrorists and Islamic extremists." But Kadeer stated her belief that all Uyghur organizations fight peacefully. On 5 June 2007, at a conference on democracy and security held in Prague, Kadeer met privately with President George W. Bush, who praised people like her for being "far more valuable than the weapons of their army or oil under the ground." On 17 September 2007, the United States House of Representatives passed by a voice vote House Resolution 497, demanding that the Chinese Government release the imprisoned children of Rebiya Kadeer and Canadian citizen Huseyin Celil, and change its suppressive policy towards the Uyghur people.

In 2010 Kadeer was banned from entering Taiwan for three years. Kadeer had been invited by a Taiwanese arts organization to attend screenings of The 10 Conditions of Love. Taiwan's Kuomintang (KMT) government claimed its rejection of Kadeer was "based on security needs." Ostensibly, the KMT was pressured by the Communist Party in Beijing. The party has long tried to delegitimize Kadeer's campaign to expose the severe human rights violations that China commits against its ethnic Uyghurs. Chinese authorities have called Kadeer a "terrorist"--a term they frequently use to describe human rights advocates.
July 2009 Riots
While the protests that preceded the July 2009 riots were ostensibly a response to the death of two Uighur workers in Guangdong, the Chinese government catapulted Kadeer into the limelight when it claimed the WUC, which she heads, had planned the riots. That said, Taiwan denied a visa to Mrs. Kadeer in Sept 2009, alleging she had links to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, classed as a terrorist organization by the United Nations and USA.

Kadeer has denied that the riots were organised.

On 3 August, Xinhua reported that two of Rebiya Kadeer's children had written letters blaming her for orchestrating the riots. According to Xinhua, they pleaded: "We want a stable and safe life … Please think about the happiness of us and your grandchildren. Don't destroy our happy life here. Don't follow the provocation from some people in other countries." Germany-based spokesman for the WUC rejected the letters as fakes. A Human Rights Watch researcher remarked their style was "suspiciously close" to the way the Chinese authorities had described rioting in Xinjiang and the aftermath. He added that: "'s highly irregular for [her children] to be placed on the platform of a government mouthpiece ... for wide dispersion." CCTV broadcast a video of interviews with the family members of Kadeer on 4 August.

Xinhua announced in early September 2009 that three properties owned by Kadeer's companies, including the Akida Trade Center, where more than 30 members of Kadeer's family were reportedly living, would be torn down due to "cracks in the walls and sunken footings". Local Uighurs said they saw this as an attempt to banish Kadeer's shadow; the Uighur American Association said the demolition may spark a new round of violence.

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