WASHINGTON—Exiled Uyghur activist Rebiya Kadeer has dismissed China’s claim that two of her children and her brother wrote letters condemning her for allegedly masterminding deadly riots last month in Urumqi, capital of the northwestern Xinjiang region.
“I am not surprised,” Kadeer said in an interview from Sydney, Australia, where she was arriving for a 10-day visit.
“I know all the old and new methods of the Chinese authorities for criticizing their enemies. This is not the first time this has happened to me.”
“I don’t have weapons or money—all I have is my reputation, and people see me as outspoken and honest. Now China is trying to do anything to damage my image among Uyghurs and in the world.”
Five of Kadeer’s 11 children still live in the northwestern Chinese region, and rights groups say they have suffered continuing harassment because of their mother’s campaigning.
According to the official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, 12 relatives including Kadeer’s son Khahar, her daughter Roxingul, and her younger brother Memet, told her in a letter: “Because of you, many innocent people of all ethnic groups lost their lives in Urumqi on July 5, with huge damage to property, shops, and vehicles.”
“We want a stable and safe life…Please think about the happiness of us and your grandchildren. Don’t destroy our happy life here. Don’t follow the provocation from some people in other countries.”
Beijing has claimed repeatedly that Kadeer and other Uyghur exiles organized the deadly violence in July, in which 197 people died and a further 1,700 were injured. Most of the victims are said to be Han Chinese.
“China has power,” Kadeer said. “They are able to control my children’s speech and turn their tongues against me, but they can’t control the love created by God between me and my children. In the coming days, you will probably see my children speaking out against me on TV.”
“My neighborhood was forced to speak out against me on TV last year. My classmates who studied with me at middle school were forced to speak about how I was a bad student at school.”
“It’s not worth wondering who wrote that letter—I know my children. No one wants to blame his or her mother for something, even if they did do something wrong.”
Hundreds of Uyghur protesters attacked Han Chinese, smashed businesses, and set fire to buses in Urumqi on July 5. Two days later, thousands of Han Chinese took to the streets armed with machetes, steel bars, and clubs to seek revenge.
Kadeer, 60, was a self-made millionaire in China and a favorite of the authorites until she spoke out about Beijing's heavy-handed treatment of her people, who complain of harassment and discrimination and suffer high unemployment.
She spent six years in prison for opposing the government and was released into U.S. exile in 2005.
Original reporting by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur service. Uyghur service director: Dolkun Kamberi. Written and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.