Rebiya Kadeer is a petite, successful businesswoman, who now lives in exile in Virgina.
But the issues they raised are longstanding, going back to China's "strike hard" policy against the mainly Muslim minority – a policy that was strengthened by US cooperation following 9/11.
Beijing's severe treatment of Uighurs – and Tibetans, too – may be an attempt to prevent a breakup similar to that of the Soviet Union.
The nations meeting in earthquake-devastated L'Aquila are also likely to consider what actions to take on Iran, North Korea.
Police established a curfew Tuesday, as 20,000 security forces roamed the streets. Internet connections have also been cut to prevent the violence from 'spreading.'
The violence brings into question China's hard-line policy against Uighur ethnic minority.
Given political sensitivities and a Stalinist grip on the region's population, no one – from Uighurs on the street to Beijing intellectuals – appears willing to talk.
The former detainees, including Uighurs released to Albania, say they are eager to put "terrorist" label behind them.