Fighting for her peoples' rights: Rebiya Kadeer visits Australia

Amnesty International Australia
by: Pandora

Celebrated Uighur human rights activist, Nobel Peace Prize nominee and former prisoner of conscience Rebiya Kadeer has arrived in Australia on her first visit to the country.

Rebiya Kadeer, who spent six years in prison in China on charges of 'leaking state secrets', has lived in exile in the US since her release from jail in March 2005. The 61-year-old ex-laundress-turned-millionaire now travels the world raising awareness about China's repression of the Uighur people.

We considered Rebiya Kadeer to be a prisoner of conscience and campaigned for her release. At least two of her sons - Alim and Ablikim Abdiriyim - are currently in prison in China and we also consider them to be prisoners of conscience.

"The Uighur people have been the target of systematic and extensive human rights violations for over 20 years," said Amnesty International Australia's China Campaign Coordinator Sophie Peer. "Uighur people are subjected to arbitrary detention, violence and killings. As a people, they face severe restrictions on their religious freedom and their social and cultural rights."

Our staff have met with members of the Uighur community living in Australia, many of whom have horrific personal stories of persecution and violence. In one interview, Mr J said his parents had sent him to Pakistan for eight years in order to study Islam, because this is banned from schools in China. Mr J recounted that Chinese authorities came to his school in Pakistan and arrested a number of students. Six students were shot dead as soon as the group crossed into China.

Another Uighur living in Australia, Ms C, told of her nephew being shot dead and her brother being arrested and detained, his whereabouts unknown to his family. Ms C's father was required to report to the police station every day or he would be apprehended by Chinese authorities. Ms C said bribes were paid to Chinese authorities to secure the freedom of friends and loved ones.

Before her arrest Rebiya Kadeer was among the top 10 wealthiest people in China. Ms Kadeer, who has 11 children, set up free classes in her department store to educate poor Uighur children and started a group called the 'Thousand Mothers Movement', to empower Uighur women to start businesses.

Since Rebiya Kadeer's release she has campaigned for the rights of the Uighurs and is considered the leader and mother of the Uighur nation. She is the ambassador for the World Uighur Congress – which was set up to promote democracy, human rights and religious freedom for the Uighur people.

In 2004, while still in jail, she was honoured with Norway's human rights award the Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize – laureates of the award include Myanmar's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and former South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung. And in 2006, Rebiya Kadeer was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

China is in the world's spotlight this year as it prepares to host the Olympic Games. The Chinese authorities must press ahead with their commitment to improving human rights so that when August 2008 arrives the Chinese people can be proud in every respect of what their country has to offer the world.

We are campaigning for change in four key areas of human rights relating to the Olympics:

  * death penalty
  * fair trials and torture
  * human rights activists
  * internet censorship and media freedom.

On this, Rebiya Kadeer's first visit to Australia, she will attend the World Uighur Congress in Adelaide, and travel to Sydney and Canberra to meet with politicians and human rights organisations.
Welcome Rebiya Kadeer to Australia
You are invited to meet Rebiya Kadeer in the following cities. Find out more information and don't forget to RSVP.

More about the Uighur people

Uighurs are a mainly Muslim ethnic minority who live primarily in China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Since the 1980s, they have been the target of systematic and extensive human rights violations, including arbitrary detention and imprisonment, incommunicado detention and have faced severe restrictions on their religious freedom and their cultural and social rights.

In recent years, China has exploited the international "war on terror" to suppress the Uighurs, labeling them terrorists, separatists and religious extremists.
Find our more and take action