A family held hostage to human rights: UHRP documents the persecution of Rebiya Kadeer's family


For immediate release
October 12, 2010, 9:40 am EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 478-1920

Since the release of Uyghur democracy leader Rebiya Kadeer from a Chinese prison in March 2005, her worldwide efforts to promote democracy and human rights for the Uyghur people have been met with an intense campaign on the part of the Chinese authorities to persecute her family members in East Turkestan. The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) has documented a clear pattern of retribution and retaliation on the part of Chinese authorities in response to her human rights advocacy, who threatened just before her release that her “businesses and children would be finished” if she continued to speak out on behalf of the Uyghur people.

UHRP views the systematic persecution of Ms. Kadeer’s family as deeply disturbing, and representative of the persecution of the Uyghur population in East Turkestan as a whole. UHRP calls upon the world community to voice concern about the inhumane treatment of Ms. Kadeer’s children and other relatives, and urges the Chinese government to stop targeting Ms. Kadeer’s family in an effort to pressure her into silence.

“The Chinese regime has held my family hostage in an attempt to silence calls for basic human rights for Uyghurs,” said Ms. Kadeer. “Instead of listening to my calls for reform and democracy in East Turkestan, they have committed further abuses against my family members. Just like countless Uyghur political prisoners suffering in Chinese jails, my sons have been imprisoned and tortured. The world must not remain silent and allow this cycle of violence to continue unabated.”

According to Ms. Kadeer’s family, her son Alim Abdureyim has recently been tortured and otherwise ill-treated in prison. Ms. Kadeer’s family believes that his life is at risk, and sources within East Turkestan report that he has suffered a serious deterioration in his health and has recently showed signs of physical and psychological trauma.

Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action on Alim’s situation on September 15, 2010, and the UHRP believes that international attention is vital to protecting his life and his welfare, as well as the life and welfare of Ms. Kadeer’s imprisoned son Ablikim Abdureyim.

“It is vitally important that the world continue to press Chinese authorities to treat my sons Alim and Ablikim humanely, provide them with medical care, and ensure their health and well-being,” said Ms. Kadeer. “I know that my conditions in prison improved as a direct result of international pressure for my release. If groups such as Amnesty International and the U.S. government had not pushed Chinese officials to improve their treatment of me, I might not be here today.”

In November 2006, Alim was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined 62,500 USD on charges of tax evasion. Ablikim was sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of “secessionism” in April 2007. The trials of both men were plagued by a lack of evidence and conducted in the absence of due process of law. Both Alim and Ablikim were initially detained on June 1, 2006 and beaten severely by public security agents in front of their own children. Ms. Kadeer was elected president of the Uyghur American Association (UAA) on May 29, 2006 by the organization’s members at the UAA’s bi-annual congress in Washington, D.C. Ablikim is also believed to have been tortured in prison.

Rebiya Kadeer’s family and former business associates have faced almost constant harassment by police ever since she was first detained by police in the regional capital of Urumchi in 1999 for her advocacy efforts, but particularly since her release and exile to the U.S. and her outspoken criticism of the Chinese government’s treatment of the Uyghur people. Soon after Ms. Kadeer arrived in exile in the U.S. in 2005, her son Alim Abdureyim was told to sign a statement confirming the Chinese government’s allegations of tax fraud and embezzlement against his mother, and was told he would “sign it in prison after we’ve broken each one of your ribs” if he refused.

The harassment and persecution of Ms. Kadeer’s family members has intensified in the wake of unrest that broke out in Urumchi on July 5, 2009. UHRP is concerned that the children and other relatives of Ms. Kadeer have been subject to particularly egregious harassment since July 5, 2009 in an attempt to punish and discredit her.

Amid aggressive government propaganda demonizing Ms. Kadeer as the “mastermind” of the unrest in Urumchi, and unsubstantiated government accusations that she is a terrorist, Chinese government authorities in August 2009 ordered more than 30 members of Ms. Kadeer’s family, including, her children, grandchildren and siblings, to leave their homes in a trade center formerly owned by the family.

On August 4, 2009, state-controlled television broadcast interviews with Ms. Kadeer’s son Kahar, daughter Rushangul and imprisoned son Alim, as well as with Ms. Kadeer’s younger brother Memet. In the interviews, the children and brother of Ms. Kadeer were compelled to make false accusations about her role in the unrest in Urumchi and condemn her for allegedly destroying the ethnic unity that had existed in the region. The day before these interviews aired on television, the official news media published a letter that accused Ms. Kadeer of having broken her promises not to participate in “ethnic splittism” when she left China. The letter was signed by her children, their spouses and five of her young grandchildren. State media issued lengthy commentary together with the letter that appeared to have been prepared beforehand, and against a background of years of political persecution, the letter appears to have been the result of state pressure on the family members.

In early November 2006, prior to her election as president of the German-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC), Ms. Kadeer was warned through a third party that her detained sons would suffer greatly if she were to run for the position. Alim’s seven-year prison sentence was handed down later that month, on the day that Ms. Kadeer was elected as president of the WUC, and another son, Kahar, was charged with tax evasion and fined USD 12,500.

Timeline of events

On September 15, 2010, Amnesty International reported that, according to his family in East Turkestan, Rebiya Kadeer’s son Alim Abdureyim was being tortured and otherwise ill-treated in detention. The family said they believed his life was at risk, and that he had suffered a serious deterioration in his health and showed signs of physical and psychological trauma.

On August 19, 2009, UAA reported that, in violation of Chinese law, the children, grandchildren, and siblings of Rebiya Kadeer who live in Urumchi, the regional capital of East Turkestan, had been ordered by Chinese government authorities to leave their homes in a trade center formerly owned by the family, which officials said would be demolished. More than 30 members of Ms. Kadeer’s family had been living on the upper levels of the Akida Trade Center, one of the buildings in the trade complex.

On August 4, 2009, state-controlled television broadcast interviews with Ms. Kadeer’s son Kahar, daughter Rushangul and imprisoned son Alim, as well as with Ms. Kadeer’s younger brother Memet. In the interviews, the children and brother of Ms. Kadeer were compelled to make false accusations about her role in unrest that took place on July 5, 2009 in Urumchi and condemn her for allegedly destroying the ethnic unity that had existed in the region. The day before these interviews aired on television, the official news media published a letter that accused Ms. Kadeer of having broken her promises not to participate in “ethnic splittism” when she left China. The letter was signed by her children, their spouses and five of her young grandchildren.

On July 7, 2009, the official Xinhua news agency reported Urumchi Communist Party Secretary Li Zhi’s inflammatory chanting of “Down with Rebiya”, at the scene of unrest in the city. On July 9, the official China Daily newspaper quoted Xinjiang Communist Party Chief Wang Lequan as saying that Ms. Kadeer had immediately gotten “involved with overseas terrorists, separatists and extremist forces” in the United States upon her arrival there in 2005.

Also on July 7, 2009, the People’s Daily online published an English-language commentary calling Ms. Kadeer an “ironclad separatist colluding with terrorists and Islamic extremists and an instigator unceasingly fanning unrest among her followers within and outside of China” (http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90002/96417/6695082.html). The commentary accused Ms. Kadeer of masterminding rioters on July 5.

On July 5, 2009, Uyghurs in Urumchi staged a peaceful demonstration. The spark for the protest was government inaction on the killing of at least two, but possibly several dozen, Uyghur migrant workers, by Han Chinese workers, at a toy factory in the city of Shaoguan, in the southern province of Guangdong on June 26, 2009. Chinese security forces moved in and used extreme force and violence, including deadly live fire, to disperse and suppress the July 5 demonstration. Some Uyghurs reacted to the violence of Chinese security forces and attacked Han Chinese. As a result, some Han Chinese were injured and some were killed. In the days following July 5, some Han Chinese carried out brutal attacks on and killed and injured Uyghurs and attacked Uyghur businesses.  

On December 13, 2007, Chinese Embassy spokesman Wang Baodong was quoted as having responded via e-mail to questions from a Voice of America (VOA) reporter regarding the grave medical condition of Rebiya Kadeer’s son Ablikim Abdureyim. In the VOA report, spokesman Wang stated that “inmates in Chinese prisons have the right to receive medical treatment according to the law when they become ill.” The report also quotes Wang as saying that “all prisoners must willingly abide by prison regulations, or they will be subjected to the appropriate punishment, as is the case in the United States.”

On December 11, 2007, UHRP learned from family members of Rebiya Kadeer that her son Ablikim Abdureyim was in dire medical condition in Bajiahu prison near Urumchi. Ablikim reportedly had difficulty recognizing members of his family during their 15-minute visit on December 6. Appearing extremely pale and weak, he told them that he had been in a coma on two occasions while in prison, and that he also fainted frequently. UHRP believes that Ablikim’s refusal to cooperate with the authorities led to severe mistreatment, including torture and medical neglect, resulting in his grave physical condition. Family members were also allowed to visit Ablikim's brother, Alim Abdureyim, for about 40 minutes, on December 6, 2007. Prison officials told them that Alim had been more cooperative with authorities when requested to confess that he was a criminal.

On September 18, 2007, the United States House of Representatives passed House Resolution 497, calling on the Chinese government to “immediately release the children of Rebiya Kadeer and Canadian citizen Huseyin Celil and refrain from further engaging in acts of cultural, linguistic, and religious suppression directed against the Uyghur people in East Turkestan (also known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region or XUAR).”

On April 17, 2007, the Intermediate People’s Court of Urumchi sentenced Rebiya Kadeer’s son Ablikim to nine years in prison on charges of “instigating and engaging in secessionist activities. The court’s verdict also stated that Ablikim would be deprived of his political rights for three years.

On April 10, 2007, UHRP reported that Chinese authorities had put Rebiya Kadeer’s oldest son, Kahar Abdureyim, in charge of a working group that had been established to oversee the liquidation of the business assets of Rebiya Kadeer’s family in Urumchi. Provincial and local authorities reportedly put Kahar Abdureyim, the oldest son of Ms. Kadeer, in charge of the group and ordered him to organize all operational arrangements for its 30 members.

On April 2, 2007, a working group responsible for implementing RMB 22 million dollars (USD 2.8 million) in fines against the Kadeer family businesses posted notices announcing the start of an assessment and liquidation process to be carried out on the Kadeer family business property. According to posted notices, the Kadeer family businesses had evaded taxes or delayed tax payments, and had hidden financial assets.

On January 22, 2007, Ablikim Abdureyim was reportedly tried on charges of “instigating and engaging in secessionist activities”. Details of the trial are unclear, and no family members were permitted to attend the trial. Family members also did not receive any advance notice prior to Ablikim’s trial.

On November 27, 2006, the court announced a seven-year prison sentence and a fine of RMB 500,000 (USD 62,500) against Alim Abdureyim; and a fine of RMB 100,000 (USD 12,500) against Kahar Abdureyim. On the same day, UHRP’s sources reported that Ablikim Abdureyim, who was in detention awaiting trial on charges of ‘subversion’, was seen being taken from the Tianshan District detention center on a stretcher, apparently in need of medical attention. The court also announced a fine of RMB 22 million dollars (USD 2.8 million) to be carried out against the Kadeer family businesses.

On November 26, 2006, Rebiya Kadeer was elected to the position of president of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), based in Munich.

On October 27, 2006, Kahar and Alim were tried at Tianshan District court in Urumchi, with the court stating that a sentence would be announced within 10 days.

On July 14, 2006, the Tianshan District Procuratorate Office formally issued an indictment charging both Kahar and Alim with tax evasion and Ablikim with subversion. At this time, UHRP was aware that Ablikim was still being interrogated in detention, indicating his case was not yet ready to be submitted by police to state prosecution offices.

On July 10, 2006, Kahar and Alim were arraigned on criminal charges.

On July 6, 2006, Alim was reported to have ‘confessed’ on or around July 1 to the criminal and political charges against him as a direct consequence of being tortured. He is understood to have signed confessions to the charges against him of tax evasion and “attempting to split the state”.

On June 23, 2006, UHRP learned that Alim Abdureyim had been tortured in detention.

On June 14, 2006, police read the arrest warrants of Kahar Abdureyim, Alim Abdureyim and Ablikim Abdureyim to Rushangul Abdureyim, and told her that they were arrested by the orders of the Fifth Branch of the Public Security Bureau in Urumchi. Rushangul was then placed under house arrest under the watch of nine policemen. After their arrest, the Fifth Branch of the Public Security Bureau in Urumchi turned Kahar, Alim and Ablikim over to the Urumchi Municipal Public Security Office and the Tianshan District Procuratorate Office for interrogation and the filing of charges.

On June 13, 2006, the Chinese authorities officially charged Kahar Abdureyim, Ms. Kadeer’s eldest son, with alleged tax evasion, Ablikim with alleged conspiracy to overthrow the government, and Alim with alleged tax evasion and attempting to split the state. Also on June 13, police detained Kahar at his home in Aksu (200 miles southeast of Urumchi) and brought him to Urumchi by chaining him to the floor of a minibus.

On June 1, 2006, police took Alim, Ablikim and Rushangul, along with their children, by vehicle to a point halfway between Urumchi and the Nanshan Mountains. At this location, police officers dragged Alim and Ablikim out of the vehicle they were in and beat them severely. At this time, one police officer present forced Rushangul to inform her mother of the beating. Following the beating, Alim was taken to a detention center and Ablikim was reportedly taken to a hospital.

On the evening of May 29, 2006, five police officers from the Nanguan Police Station detained Alim, Ablikim and Rushangul Abdureyim (two sons and a daughter, respectively, of Rebiya Kadeer). They were first brought to the police station to be detained there, and were later allowed to go home and were put under house arrest.

On May 29, 2006, Ms. Kadeer was elected president of the Uyghur American Association (UAA) by the organization’s members at the UAA’s bi-annual congress in Washington, D.C.

On August 30, 2005, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that police in Urumchi had formed a special unit to investigate the relatives and business interests of Rebiya Kadeer, citing her son Alim Abdureyim and a local police officer. Alim, who was the managing director of his family’s Akida Trading Co., told RFA’s Uyghur service that police in the mostly Uyghur Nanguan area of Urumchi had formed a unit known as “the number 307 office, [or] the Rebiya Kadeer investigation office. Alim stated that police from Unit 307 required members of the Kadeer family to give them advance notice if they wished to leave Urumchi.

On May 13, 2005, police brought both employees back to the Kadeer Trading Center as they raided the company’s offices. Police took Mamat and Kerim away again after the raid. During the raid, police tried to arrest Ms. Kadeer’s son, Ablikim Abdureyim, but he managed to evade arrest.

On May 11, 2005, police detained two employees of the Kadeer Trade Center. Ruzi Mamat, 25, and Aysham Kerim, 34, worked at Ms. Kadeer’s firm as company secretary and company director, respectively. Both Mamat and Karim were reportedly held at the Fifth Branch of the Public Security Bureau in Urumchi.

On March 17, 2005, Ms. Kadeer arrived in the United States after being released from a prison in the regional capital of Urumchi on March 16, ostensibly on medical grounds. U.S. officials accompanied Ms. Kadeer on her flight to the United States. Members of the U.S. Congress, the U.S. State Department, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Dui Hua Foundation and the Norway-based Rafto Foundation, among others, had campaigned for Ms. Kadeer’s release. Three days prior to her release, Chinese guards warned Ms. Kadeer that her five adult children remaining in China would be “finished” if she revealed “sensitive information” or associated with “Uyghur separatists” in exile.

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