Q&A with Uighur spiritual leader Rebiya Kadeer
The Monitor spoke with the exiled mother figure for China's Uighurs about the deadly riots, independence, and China's use of the label of 'terrorist.'
Rebiya Kadeer, the exiled Uighur businesswoman accused by China of "masterminding" last week's deadly riots in Xinjiang Province, says she has had no contact with "any violent groups in Xinjiang." She hopes President Obama will urge Chinese leaders not to execute protesters, and called Sunday for a US consulate in Xinjiang.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
In a wide-ranging phone interview, the mother figure of some 20 million Uighurs says China's official depiction of the ethnic group as terrorists after 9/11 is worse than its policies to restrict language and religion. She says Chinese leaders' call for harsh measures, including execution of protesters, will have "dangerous consequences for China and for the Uighur people." [Editor's note: We overestimated the number of Uighurs worldwide. The World Uyghur Congress estimates there are more than 20 million Uighurs. China's 2000 census reported 8 million in Xinjiang Province.]
Ms. Kadeer, speaking from Virginia, her residence after release from a Chinese prison in 2005, also addressed the alleged evidence that she orchestrated the violence. Beijing officials point to phone intercepts of Kadeer to Urumqi ahead of the protests saying "something big is going to happen." Kadeer says that she did "place a call" to her family. "It was a call to my family members there, after my daughter here [in Washington] saw announcements of the protest on web sites. My family has been targeted in China. I called my brother and said if something big happens do not go out. [I said] tell the relatives not to take part."
Kadeer spoke with the Monitor Saturday:
Q: Were you surprised at the fury and chaos on July 5?
A: I was quite surprised by the loss of so many lives. Initially the protest was peaceful. You could even see Uighurs in the crowd holding Chinese flags. There were women and children, and that seemed at first like a good thing. But the Uighurs were provoked by Chinese security forces – dogs, armored cars. What has not been noted are the plain clothes police who went in and provoked the Uighurs. My view is that the Chinese wanted a riot in order to justify a larger crackdown; its an attempt to create solidarity between the Han and the government at a time when there is insecurity. Provoking the crowd justifies that this was a Uighur mob.