Rebiya Kadeer, once celebrated by the Chinese government as a model Uighur businesswoman, is now serving an eight year prison term for illegally passing intelligence outside of China.
Kadeer, 54, was detained on August 11, 1999, on her way to meet a US Congressional Research Service delegation. On February 21, 2000, the Urumqi City Procuracy officially accused her of ignoring the law of the country and giving information to separatists outside the borders.
This claim was based on the fact that Kadeer mailed newspapers to her husband Sidik Rouzi, a US-based Uighur nationalist and commentator for Radio Free Asia. The authorities alleged that these contained articles about the Uighur independence movement, but in fact Kadeer had simply arranged to send her husband all issues of the official newspaper in the region, the Xinjiang Daily, for the month of May 1999.
Kadeer was tried by the Urumqi Intermediate Court on March 10. Neither she nor her lawyer were allowed to speak during the proceedings, which lasted just two hours. Family members were not permitted to attend. Kadeer was sentenced to eight years in prison under Article 111 of Chinas criminal code, the crime of illegally providing state secrets or intelligence outside the country. While state secrets are, at least in theory, subject to a formal classification system, there is no legal definition of what constitutes intelligence.
Although the Urumqi City Higher Court had announced that it would consider Kadeers appeal, her original sentence was ultimately upheld on November 7. Her daughter said that Kadeers lawyer told them further appeals would be pointless. A few days later, she was transferred from Luidawan Detention Center to Bajiahu Prison, approximately 30 km from Urumqi.
For the first 15 months of her detention, Kadeer was denied visits and communication with her family. Two of her 11 children were finally allowed to see her on November 30, after prison officials extended an invitation, which officials called a special favor. The 30-minute visit was conducted in a private room within the prison facility, with three police officers keeping watch outside the door, six policemen in attendance and an additional three people present to take notes on the conversation, which was also taped. Instructed to speak Chinese only, Kadeer and her children were warned in advance to choose their topics of discussion carefully, or risk an increase in Kadeers punishment. Kadeer did not respond to questions her children posed about her health or whether she had been taken to the hospital, but they later said she looked strong and energetic. Kadeer told her children that she was proud to be a political prisoner and said, Never forget that Ill never commit suicide. They were allowed to leave food, blankets and clothing, but not medicine. Periodically, Kadeers daughters have been permitted to drop off clothing at the prison, and each time have obtained a receipt signed by their mother. However, for a delivery made at the end of October, the prison guards did not provide such a receipt, saying that Kadeer was being punished for breaking prison rules, but refused to give further details.
Detainees released from the facility where Kadeer was initially held told her family that her health is poor and that she had asked to be taken to hospital. A stomach ailment and heart condition have reportedly gone untreated since her arrest. Yet prison authorities have demanded the family pay hundreds of dollars for medical care.
Kadeers son Ablikim Abdurehim and secretary Kahriman Abdukirim were also detained on August 11, 1999, in connection with her case, and have both been sentenced to Reeducation Through Labor terms.
Kadeer is a former member of Xinjiangs Peoples Political Consultative Conference. She came to prominence for her successful business endeavors that provided work and training to her fellow Uighurs. She was also active in promoting the advancement of Uighur women, most notably through micro-enterprise projects.
Kadeer met Sidik Rouzi, her second husband, in 1978, shortly after he was released from prison for advocating Uighur rights. They soon married and began their business by borrowing 3,000 yuan to buy goods from Chinese provinces to sell in Xinjiang. Rouzi also taught literature while writing and translating essays on the plight of Uighur people. Fearing arrest, Rouzi and Kadeer left Xinjiang for the United States in 1996, where Rouzi applied for asylum. Kadeer returned to China.
In November 2000, Human Rights Watch honored Rebiya Kadeer as a human rights monitor for her work to build a civil society from the ground up in China. Rouzi accepted the award on her behalf, and called for support to win the immediate release of Kadeer, her son and assistant.
Judy M. Chen