Rebiya Kadeer to go on hunger strike to protest against treatment of Chinese minorities
  • Fri, 04/20/2018 - 16:45

2018-04-20

The exiled leader of an ethnic minority in China is readying to go on a hunger strike to protest against Beijing's treatment of the Uighur people.

Rebiya Kadeer, a persecuted leader of the Uighur people — a Turkic minority living in Western China — told the ABC's The World program that she hopes the drastic action will help draw international attention to the plight of her people.

"China tried to silence me by forcefully detaining more than 37 family members of mine in the Uighur region, including my five children, my grandchildren, sisters, brothers and our siblings," she said.

"All of them disappeared for more than a year, the Chinese government is trying everything to silence me.

"Not only my family members, but also more than 1 million Uighur people are being held in Nazi-style concentration camps in the region.

"I will stop the hunger strike when the United Nations and other international organisations stand up with Uighur people against Chinese brutal and harsh policy."

'All religious books confiscated and burned'

Ms Kadeer, a leader of the World Uighur Congress, was held as a political prisoner in China for eight years accused of revealing state secrets in 1997, before being released to the United States on medical grounds in 2005.

Still living in the United States, Ms Kadeer has campaigned for worldwide support and action in the region, claiming that Beijing is stifling the culture of the Uighur people and attempting to "brainwash" them with Chinese nationalism.

"All of the Uighur people are made to study Chinese ideology and Chinese traditional, nationalistic values," she said.

"All of the religious books including copies of the Koran and the Uighur books in Uighur language, all of them confiscated and burned."

While China officially guarantees freedom of religion, authorities have issued a series of measures in the past few years to tackle what it sees as a rise in religious extremism.

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Last year, Beijing prohibited "abnormal" beards, the wearing of veils in public places and the refusal to watch state television.

Uighur leader involved with 'terrorists', China says


PHOTO: Beijing has increased its policing of the Uighur people in an attempt to control extremism. (Reuters)

The Chinese Government maintains the narrative that Uighur Muslims like Ms Kadeer and the WUC are involved with "terrorists, separatists and extremists".

Chinese state media has often reported how evidence shows the Kadeer-led WUC is responsible for a range of riots including a 2009 riot that left hundreds dead in Urumqi, the capital city of China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

"Kadeer once claimed the Congress would plot to sabotage the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China this year," the China Daily wrote.

Hundreds of people have died in recent years in Xinjiang, home to the Uighur people, in unrest blamed by Beijing on Islamist militants groups and separatists.

But the Government strongly denies committing any abuses in Xinjiang and insists the legal, cultural and religious rights of Uighurs are fully protected.

Kadeer expected to return to Australia soon

Ms Kadeer is scheduled to visit Australia in the coming weeks for the second time this year, where she hopes to gain support from the Federal Government for the Uighur people.

"I hope and expect the Australian Government to establish an Uighur-Australian friendship group inside the Australian Parliament," she said.

"I hope the Australian Government will consider the situation of more than 2,500 Uighur Australians and their family members and extended relatives back home."

Members of the Australian Uighur community held protests last month to call on Canberra to act on reports about the Chinese Government's actions in Xinjaing.

But during her recent visit, Ms Kadeer said no members of the Government would meet with her.

 

 

Labor MP Michael Danby — the sole politician to meet with Ms Kadeer during that visit — recently told The Sydney Morning Herald that the Government should at least meet with Ms Kadeer to discuss the plight of the Uighur people.

 

"I think it's shameful that no-one in the Australian Government will talk to her, even if for diplomatic or intelligence reasons to find out what's going on," Mr Danby said.

 

"Their ancient culture and history seems to be being trashed like the Tibetans', against a Chinese constitution that guarantees minority rights."

 

Ms Kadeer is still awaiting approval for a final US location for her hunger strike.

 

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