Rebiya Kadeer, Prisoner of Conscience – GOOD NEWS!CHINA
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Rebiya Kadeer greeted by family
March 17, 2005
The release of prisoner of conscience Rebiya Kadeer is a joyful victory, and our joy is only tempered by thoughts of the many others who remain unjustly jailed in China, including those jailed after the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. Rebiya's release demonstrates that no government is immune to the persistent pressure applied by dedicated human rights activists worldwide, and Amnesty International will redouble its efforts to win further releases.
Attention by the US government and the scores of Members of Congress who had called for her release was critical to winning Rebiya's freedom.
Her release indicates that consistent pressure can win concrete progress on human rights, and underscores the need for the US to maintain such pressure. The effectiveness of the US-China human rights dialogue will continue to be measured by the resolution of remaining individual cases and by advances toward the overall protection of fundamental freedoms in China.
Rebiya's daughter Akida Rouzi issued the following statement on behalf of the family:
"We are beyond happy. We have waited for this moment for five and a half years and want to thank everyone who worked toward this joyful day."
More on Rebiya Kadeer
Rebiya Kadeer founded and directed a large trading company in northwestern China, championed the rights of the Uighur ethnic group there, and became one of China’s most prominent advocates of women’s rights. All these activities came to an abrupt halt in August 1999 when police arrested her as she entered a hotel to discuss human rights with U.S. Congressional staff who were visiting China.
Rebiya Kadeer has spent more than five years jailed in a region where prison conditions are notoriously harsh. Prisoners in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region receive poor food, inadequate sanitation, and little medical treatment. Amnesty International has expressed grave concern about reports of Rebiya Kadeer’s deteriorating health.
The Chinese government charged Rebiya Kadeer in September 1999 with “providing secret information to foreigners” even though the local newspapers she was carrying at the time of her arrest were all publicly available, as were the newspapers she had sent to her husband in the United States. Authorities tried her in secret and sentenced her in March 2000 to eight years’ imprisonment. In early 2004, authorities reduced her sentence by one year.
A successful and charismatic businesswoman, Kadeer used her resources to provide fellow Uighurs, the region’s predominantly Muslim majority ethnic group, with training and employment. The Chinese government had recognized her contributions by appointing her to its prestigious national advisory group, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. The government also appointed her to its delegation participating in the 1995 United Nations World Conference on Women. She was a standing member of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region Chamber of Commerce, and in 1997, she founded the Thousand Mothers Movement to promote women’s rights and economic security.
Rebiya Kadeer’s activism in the strategically important, oil-rich autonomous region of Xinjiang and her husband’s outspoken criticism of Chinese rule in the mostly Muslim region began to draw government reprisals in the late 1990s. Her husband left China in 1996. The following year, the government confiscated Rebiya Kadeer’s passport. Harassment by police was accompanied by further restrictions on her movements. In 1998, authorities barred her from reappointment to the Consultative Conference.
Rebiya Kadeer, 53 at the time of her arrest in 1999, is the mother of 11 children, some of whom live in the United States. More than 100 Members of Congress have called upon the Chinese government to free her.
Amnesty International considers Rebiya Kadeer to be a prisoner of conscience and seeks her immediate and unconditional release.
Since the late 1980s, Chinese government policies and other factors have generated growing ethnic discontent in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. In the past few years, thousands of people there have been the victims of gross human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, unfair political trials, torture, and summary executions. These violations, suffered primarily by members of the Uighur ethnic group, occur amidst growing ethnic unrest fueled by unemployment, discrimination and restrictions on religious and cultural freedoms. The situation has led some people living in the XUAR to favor independence from China.