Rebiya Kadeer has been likened to the Dalai Lama. The prominent Uighur (pronounced wee-gur) activist was short-listed for this year's Nobel Peace Prize. On Tuesday she testified before a Canadian parliamentary committee in Ottawa urging Canada to make the human rights of the Uighur people and the release of Uighur-Canadian Huseyin Celil "top priority" in relations with the Chinese.
Ms. Kadeer is a native of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in northwest China, called East Turkistan before the Chinese occupation in 1949. Uighurs then became "second-class citizens," facing extreme prejudice and repression similar to the plight of the Tibetan people, Kadeer said through an interpreter.
Kadeer rose to become an unlikely senior government advisor and successful businesswoman in China. It was giving help and leadership to her own people, she said, that led to her downfall and to "trumped-up" charges. She spent five years in prison before being released in 2005, due to strong international pressure. She was allowed to go to the U.S. A high-profile opponent of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Kadeer has since travelled extensively to raise awareness of human rights violations against the Uighurs by the Chinese regime.
Celil had fled China in the mid-1990s. He was arrested in Uzbekistan while visiting relatives in March. Accused by the Chinese communist regime of terrorist activities, he was extradited there in June and has reportedly been sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment.
Kadeer Addresses Human Rights Subcommittee
Speaking before the House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights, Kadeer asked Members of Parliament to draft a letter to Chinese leader Hu Jintao to demand Celil's "immediate and unconditional release." She relayed that a letter to Hu signed by 72 members of the U.S. Congress helped gain the release of two of her children from imprisonment in China.
Amnesty International reports that state retaliation against family members appears to be a pattern developing in China to pressure human rights defenders. Another example is human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, arrested in August and charged with "inciting subversion." Police have continued to subject his 13-year-old daughter to constant monitoring and verbal abuse, and Gao's wife was beaten by police last month. Gao was reportedly sentenced in secret, recently.
Kadeer outlined several additional recommendations to Canada. These include helping broker discussions between the Chinese regime and the World Uighur Congress, expanding CIDA HIV/AIDS projects in East Turkistan, sending a fact-finding mission there, providing funding to the Uighur Canadian Association (UCA), and ensuring the release of her sons still in Chinese prison.
Kadeer also commended Prime Minister Stephen Harper for putting human rights ahead of trade in his meeting last month with Hu at the APEC summit in Vietnam.
UCA president Mehmet Tohti, accompanying Kadeer at the hearing, described the Canada-China bilateral human rights dialogue as a "waste of time, money, and resources." Canada is acting too softly and lacks understanding of China's "tricky diplomatic policy," he said.
He explained that until 1997 Canada had sponsored a UN resolution annually to criticize the Chinese regime's human rights record. The regime persuaded Canada to replace it with a bilateral dialogue, and the dialogue soon became closed-door. China next convinced Canada to provide CIDA funding to improve the Chinese judiciary and related institutions. Meanwhile, China has money to spend to strengthen its military, he added.
Tohti said the dialogue should have accountability and a clear strategy that includes steps, timeframes, implementation, and follow-up.
Human Rights in China Depend Upon International Community
Following the hearing, Kadeer said "Canada is a powerful, democratic country" and that "if Canada takes the lead, other countries will follow."
She asked the rights activists' relatives who are suffering to have hope. "With the help of the international community, with their own patience and endurance, the human rights cause will be victorious in China."
"The Chinese government is not only facing international pressure, but internal pressure as well," she remarked. She likened China's situation to a cup that is overflowing. The Chinese communist regime's human rights violations are "overwhelming, overflowing, and so evil, and the people's anger is also overflowing."
Kadeer told the Epoch Times she is aware of the peaceful movement in China to withdraw from the CCP, prompted by the Epoch Times editorial series Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party. Over 16 million have quit the party and its affiliated organizations to date.
"If such trends continue, that's going to be wonderful," she said.