WASHINGTON—Police in Urumqi, capital of China’s Muslim-majority Uyghur region, have formed a special unit to investigate the relatives and business interests of exiled Uyghur dissident Rebiya Kadeer, according to one of Kadeer’s sons and a local police officer.
Alim Abdurehim, managing director of his family’s Akida Trading Co., told RFA’s Uyghur service that police in the mostly Uyghur Nanguan area of Urumqi had formed a unit known as “the number 307 office, [or] Rebiya Kadir investigation office.”
A police officer who asked not to be named confirmed to RFA that such a unit was operating in the city.
Police from Unit 307 require members of the Kadeer family to give them advance notice if they wish to leave Urumqi, Abdurehim said.
This is the most devastating pressure. They will not harass us openly. We have not done anything wrong or illegal for them to openly harass us. There is only one government in China, and if one loses the support of this government, then individuals are afraid to deal with us.
This week police detained two Kadeer cousins for a day to press them to hand over their passports, which couldn’t be found, he said. Both cousins were then released, he said.
“This is the most devastating pressure. They will not harass us openly. We have not done anything wrong or illegal for them to openly harass us,” Abdurehim said in an interview. “There is only one government in China, and if one loses the support of this government, then individuals are afraid to deal with us.”
Abdurehim said the intimidation is more subtle. “If the police ... say ‘Rebiya Kadeer has such and such amount of debt—don’t get involved with her business or her son, don’t deal with their company,’ other businessmen worry that the government will come after them in the future…They are scared of having any business relationship with us,” he said.
Akida Trading Co.’s main revenue has in recent years derived from renting and selling commercial space in the two buildings it owns in Urumqi.
“They are ruining our reputation,” he said.
Abdurehim’s allegations were in keeping with recent official charges against his mother, a leading member of China’s Muslim Uyghur minority who was paroled from prison and sent into U.S. exile earlier this year.
Last week, Wang Lequan, Communist Party secretary of the restive Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, said Rebiya Kadeer had evaded taxes, committed fraud, and run up huge debts.
"She said that once abroad she would never do anything to damage state interests," Wang told a news conference. "But as soon as she went over the border, she broke her promises." Wang accused Kadeer of conspiring with separatists "about how to plan terror attacks and jeopardize the People’s Republic of China’s 50th anniversary celebration on Oct. 1, 1999.
She said that once abroad she would never do anything to damage state interests. But as soon as she went over the border, she broke her promises.
Kadeer was jailed in 1999 on charges of providing state secrets abroad and released on medical parole earlier this year, joining her husband, Virginia-based Sidik Haji Rouzi, and several of her children. Six of her 11 children remain in China.
Kadeer’s son, who remains in Urumqi, rejected Wang’s charges.
On May 13 this year, according to U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, more than 100 police raided the firm, taking 15 large bags full of documents. Other sources said they had also opened the company safe and removed 35,000 yuan (about U.S. $6,000) in cash, saying the company was suspected of tax fraud, sources said.
According to Abdurehim, Rebiya Kadeer received 16 citations from Chinese authorities—from the Tengritagh district authority, the Urumqi tax office, and the Uyghur Autonomous Region-Urumqi city market management office—for her business activities and tax compliance.
Abdurehim said he had taken a legal bank loan of nine million yuan (about U.S. $1.1 million) in 2003, while his mother was jailed, but said he had been unable to make monthly payments of 90,000 yuan since police raided the company officers in May.
Police seized “every single piece paper, documents, files, everything from our company,” he said. “Therefore, the government can accuse us of being in any amount of debt they wish.”
Human Rights Watch describes China’s curbs in Xinjiang as “a multi-tiered system of surveillance, control, and suppression of religious activity,” as part of Beijing’s heavy-handed effort to quash support for greater Uyghur independence.
The Uyghurs are a distinct, Turkic-speaking ethnic group whose homeland enjoyed a brief period of autonomy as East Turkestan in the late 1940s, but who have lived under Chinese rule since 1949.
According to the State Department’s 2004 Human Rights report, Uyghurs continued to be sentenced to long prison terms and sometimes executed last year on charges of separatism.
Since the 9/11 attacks, Beijing has presented its crackdown on Muslims as part of the international war on terror.
Original reporting in Uyghur by Omer Kanat and Jelil Mussa. Service director: Dolkun Kamberi. Edited and produced for the Web by Sarah Jackson-Han.