WASHINGTON—Chinese authorities in Xinjiang have formally detained two sons of exiled Uyghur dissident Rebiya Kadeer and are keeping one of her daughters under house arrest for alleged tax evasion, after "seriously" beating one son in front of his children, according to the Kadeer family and an official news report.
Kadeer's U.S.-based husband, Sidik Haji Rouzi, told RFA's Uyghur service that police had arrived at the homes of her sons, Alim Abdurehim and Ablikim Abdurehim, and her daughter Roshangul Abdurehim, after placing them under house arrest at 7 a.m. local time May 31.
"Police officers guarding the home told them to board a minibus outside the house so that they could go for a sightseeing trip to South Mountain," Rouzi said, referring to a popular tourist destination near the regional capital, Urumqi.
Ablikim is in the hospital. There are seven police officers in our house. They shut down the phone.. They won't let us leave. We haven't eaten for 12 hours. They will not allow us to cook at home. We are hungry.
"The three boarded with many other family members and some of their own children. As they drove toward the tourist area, the bus stopped in an empty part of the road. At the same time, seven police cars arrived," he said.
"Ablikim and Alim were dragged off of the bus and badly beaten by police. Roshangul immediately called her mother in Washington and explained what was going on. 'They are beating my brothers,' she said, but the line quickly cut off, presumably after the phone was taken from her."
Kadeer's sister, whose 15 year-old daughter Raziy was on the minibus, later told Kadeer by telephone: "They beat Ablikim very badly. He's in the hospital. I don't know where they took Roshangul and Alim. But as they were beating them, the police shouted 'we will arrest you.'"
Also on the minibus were Roshangul's nine-year-old son Sedar and husband Keyser, Alim's four-year-old daughter Chepar and his 24-year-old wife Rayile, and Turghun, the son of a more distant relative.
Rouzi said the Washington-based couple got a call early Thursday from Kadeer's granddaughter Kairya, who told them:
"Ablikim is in the hospital. There are seven police officers in our house. They shut down the phone. They won't let us leave. We haven't eaten for 12 hours. They will not allow us to cook at home. We are hungry. I told them I was going to school," she said.
Official media reported that Alim and Abdurehim had been "detained according to law" following initial questioning.
If you don't cooperate with us, we will destroy your family. You are all criminals.
The Xinjiang Zhongdian News Web, at www.xjts.cn, said that during questioning on May 31, Kadeer's son Alim Abdurehim was "rude and unreasonable, so that the questioning was unable to proceed normally."
"On June 1, the public security bureau legally detained Alim Abdurehim and Ablikim Abdurehim and and instituted residential surveillance of Roshangul Abdurehim."
Ablikim Abdurehim is managing director of his family’s Akida Trading Co.
"According to our investigations, Rebiya Kadeer and her children have an Urumqi-registered company named the Akida Trading Co. Ltd, which has used various illegal methods to evade taxes totaling 8.07 million yuan (U.S.$1.0 million), and which has unmet payments of 2.16 million yuan, and debts to banks and individuals of 2.89 million yuan," the report said.
"In order to protect national interests and the interests of creditors, the government has intervened with a number of measures, but sources say that Kadeer's children have already succeeded in transferring more than U.S.$200,000 overseas," it said.
The dispatch also sharply criticized Kadeer for speaking out against Chinese rule in Xinjiang following her parole and exile to the United States last year. Kadeer "promised not to take part in any activities endangering the security of the People's Republic of China" after she was released, it said.
"However, immediately upon arriving overseas she shed her pretense and began to make contacts with overseas separatist forces. She also attended every kind of anti-China separatist activity. In truth, Rebiya Kadeer has now already become the figurehead for separatist organizations overseas."
Roshangul Abdurehim, contacted before the minibus incident by RFA's Uyghur service at home in Urumqi, said a police officer named Aksar had warned her, "If you don't cooperate with us, we will destroy your family. You are all criminals."
In a statement, the U.S. State Department voiced “deep concern” and urged the Chinese authorities to release Kadeer's children if any of them were detained.
“We are deeply concerned by reports that three of Rebiya Kadeer’s adult children were detained and one or more may have been beaten. In addition, we are continuing to seek information on the welfare and whereabouts of Ms. Kadeer’s children and are working to contact them directly,” the State Department said. “We have raised our concerns with high level Chinese Government officials and have strongly urged them to investigate these reports and to release Ms. Kadeer’s children, if they are under any form of detention. We will continue to urge that they be allowed to move and act freely,” the statement said.
Two days earlier, police had summoned Alim Abdurehim and asked him how he was preparing to receive a U.S. congressional team currently in China. “We are thinking of hosting a banquet to welcome them,” he replied.
“You cannot throw a banquet, and you cannot be in contact with them,” one officer replied, according to Uyghur sources, “or you will meet the same fate as your mother.”
A police officer contacted by telephone and asked about the detention of Kadeer's children said only, “I am not familiar with this event...I have nothing to say,” before hanging up. He declined to give his name.
Alim Abdurehim last year indicated that police in Nanguan had formed a unit known as “the number 317 office, [or] Rebiya Kadeer investigation office.” Police who asked not to be identified confirmed his account.
In another possible annoyance to Chinese authorities, Kadeer, a self-made millionaire jailed for criticizing Beijing’s heavy-handed rule in mostly Uyghur Xinjiang, was elected president last week of the nonprofit Uyghur American Association.
She vowed to work for “human rights and religious freedom for the Uyghur people in East Turkestan,” the name many Uyghurs use to denote what Beijing calls the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
Kadeer was handed an eight-year jail term in 1999 en route to meet with a team of U.S. congressional researchers.
She was paroled and exiled to the United States in 2005, and she has said she was warned to keep her criticism of China to herself or her adult children still in Xinjiang “would be finished.”
Uyghur activists have for decades sought autonomy in what is now Xinjiang, which China formally annexed in 1955.
Chinese authorities have accused them of terrorism and blamed them for more than 260 terrorist acts in Xinjiang over the last 20 years in which 160 people have died and 440 have been injured.
But human rights groups say China has used its support for the U.S.-led war on terror to justify a wider crackdown on Uyghurs characterized by arbitrary arrests, closed trials and the use of the death penalty.
Original reporting in Uyghur by Jelil Mussa with additional reporting by David Beasley. Service director: Dolkun Kamberi. Chinese translation by Luisetta Mudie. Edited and produced for the Web by Sarah Jackson-Han.