Daily Archives: July 11, 2009

Security Troops Blanket Chinese City-Washington Post

Security Troops Blanket Chinese City
Thousands of Urumqi Residents Flee as Sporadic Ethnic Violence Continues

By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, July 9, 2009


URUMQI, China, July 8 — The Chinese government blanketed this strife-torn city with 20,000 new security troops on Wednesday, as thousands of residents began to flee after deadly ethnic clashes erupted over the weekend.

The top Communist Party official in Urumqi, the capital of China’s far-western Xinjiang region, said that order had been restored and that the government will seek the death penalty for the perpetrators of the violence, which has claimed at least 156 lives. The official, Li Zhi, said many of the suspects are students.

The violence began Sunday after a demonstration by ethnic Muslim Uighurs — upset over a stalled investigation into the death of two Uighur factory workers — apparently spun out of control, with participants attacking Han Chinese and their businesses. Witnesses said security troops fired shots at the protesters while Han Chinese retaliated against Uighurs with household items such as kitchen knives, pipes and steel bars.

Relations between ethnic minorities and Han Chinese, who make up more than 90 percent of the Chinese population, have long been tense. But until the melee on Sunday, Urumqi had been one of the calmer parts of western China.

Thousands of the city’s residents have fled. Men, women and children carrying hastily packed shopping bags with their most valued possessions crowded the city’s main bus and train stations on Wednesday. Tickets to many destinations were sold out for the next three days.

Despite a curfew from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m., small clashes between Uighurs and Han Chinese continued. At one point, witnesses said, about 300 Han rioters broke through a police line and attacked Uighur shops and homes.

Clusters of armed groups roamed the streets during the day. About 20 Han men with wooden bats and other weapons converged to beat a Uighur man, according to a reporter with Agence France-Presse who witnessed the incident. A separate group of Han Chinese, who had been reading newspaper coverage of the violence, chased Uighurs at an intersection, catching one man and attacking him.

By evening, the area around Urumqi’s bazaar, where the protest started Sunday, had been transformed into a military zone.

At a news conference, the city’s mayor said the area was calm. “Under the correct leadership of the regional party committee and government . . . the situation is now under control,” Jerla Isamudin said.

Trucks and light-armor vehicles filled with troops from hundreds of miles away were parked every few blocks. Walls of rifle-carrying soldiers closed off gaps between buildings and roads. Groups of soldiers stationed at mosques and other key targets for attacks shouted, “Protect! Protect!”

Researcher Zhang Jie contributed to this report.


Hu Says China Will Deal Harshly With Instigators-Washington Post

Hu Says China Will Deal Harshly With Instigators

By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, July 10, 2009


URUMQI, China, July 9 — Chinese President Hu Jintao and other top leaders of the Communist Party vowed Thursday to severely punish those responsible for the bloody, ethnically charged clashes this week in the far western region of Xinjiang.

Hu, in his first public comments about the crisis, said local authorities should “isolate and deal a blow to the small group” responsible for killing 156 people and injuring more than 1,000 in attacks that pitted the dominant Han Chinese against the Muslim Uighur minority that used to dominate this area.

“Preserving and maintaining the overall stability of Xinjiang is currently the most urgent task,” Hu, chief of the country’s Communist Party, and the other eight members of the group’s ruling Politburo, said in a statement released by the official New China News Agency.

The regional capital, Urumqi, was calm Thursday for the second day in a row as police and military troops patrolled by foot, truck and armored personnel carrier. Helicopter surveillance continued overhead.

Slogans aimed at calming residents could be heard and seen all over the city. Loudspeakers blared messages such as “keep social order” and “maintain public security.” Red signs posted on apartment buildings urged the public, “Don’t listen to any rumors.” Police trucks were covered in banners that said: “Oppose ethnic separatism and hatred.”

Hu abandoned the Group of Eight summit in Italy on Wednesday to return to China to deal with the crisis. Since then, local officials in Xinjiang have said they will seek the death penalty for those responsible for the violence.

A number of countries have urged China to respect human rights while dealing with the crisis, and Turkey has gone a step further by calling for the U.N. Security Council to help stop the violence. On Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang dismissed the issue, saying that the problems in Xinjiang are an internal affair.

The violence began Sunday after a demonstration by Uighurs — upset over a stalled investigation into the deaths of two Uighur factory workers — erupted into riots. The clashes spread through the city, and some violence was reported in other areas of Xinjiang. Since then, the government has blanketed the region with security forces to restore order.

In Wake of Turmoil In China, Minorities Face Painful Options-Washington Post

In Wake of Turmoil In China, Minorities Face Painful


Many Abandoning Lives They Loved

By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, July 9, 2009


URUMQI, China, July 9 — A few steps past the shattered glass, warped metal and other remains of a Muslim Uighur restaurant, Ye Erkeng and his family are in hiding.

Ye, his wife, younger brother, sister-in-law, niece and mother have not ventured outside their apartment complex for three days. They have been getting by on stale bread and boiled water.

After bloody clashes between Uighur demonstrators and government security forces began Sunday in Urumqi, capital of the far western region of Xinjiang, Ye said he did not want to risk having his family members on the streets. But around 11 p.m. Tuesday, a mob of several hundred Han Chinese carrying sticks, hammers and bricks ransacked the restaurant in front of Ye’s apartment as he and his family huddled inside, praying.

“I thought, ‘If they rush into the house, we will all die,’ ” Ye said.

Letting Go of Dreams

Ye’s family is among the many in Urumqi that find themselves at an unexpected crossroads in the aftermath of this week’s violence, which has claimed at least 156 lives. Terrified of their Han neighbors, but accustomed to the comforts of the city they have made their home, they must weigh the benefits of staying in a place where they no longer feel welcome or returning to a countryside where their salaries will probably be reduced by half. On Wednesday, Ye and his wife, Mu Heti, made the painful decision to go back to the countryside of Ili in northern Xinjiang, joining an exodus of ethnic minorities out of Urumqi that has overwhelmed bus and train stations in recent days.

Before Tuesday night, Ye said, he thought that the violence would pass quickly and that life in Urumqi would return to normal. Ye, 40, who is Kazakh, and Mu, 36, who is Uighur, and their extended families have been in the city for eight years while he worked as a Chinese-Russian translator. The family members had settled into a life they loved.

In a good month, Ye could make as much as 3,000 yuan, or about $450, a small fortune considering that his whole family had been barely able to eke out $75 a month farming sunflowers and cotton in his home town. But their enchantment with Urumqi went further than money.

Ye had picked up the Han Chinese love of mah-jongg, a traditional game involving tiles that is similar to rummy, and had a regular competition going with friends. Mu loved to sit on the street with friends, drinking tea and watching the city’s bustle.

Ye’s niece, 12-year-old Ye Ziyang, was the only minority student at one of the top elementary schools in the city and had made friends with Han children whose ambitions went far beyond those of her peers in the countryside. Ziyang was learning English, and she often spoke of going to college and becoming a doctor.

But all that now seemed distant, Ye and Mu said, in light of the violence. Tensions between China’s dominant Han population and people native to Xinjiang — mostly Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking group, and Kazakhs, who are concentrated on the border with Kazakhstan, are mostly Muslim and speak their own Turkic language — have existed since Chinese troops rolled into Xinjiang 60 years ago.

China has repeatedly said that it “liberated” the population, but many Uighurs and Kazakhs complain of government policies that they say are meant to wipe out their language, culture and religion in the name of assimilation.

The complaints are similar to those of Tibetans, another of China’s 56 officially recognized ethnic minorities. In March 2008, Tibet erupted into protests against Chinese rule that spilled into violence. Like the Tibetans last year, Uighurs have complained that the government has practiced a double standard in how it deals with the perpetrators of violence — detaining Uighurs in large numbers, while allowing Han Chinese to go free.

The Xinjiang region in recent years has experienced a large influx of Han Chinese lured by the government’s ambitious Develop the West program, which seeks to duplicate the success of the wealthier coastal areas. As a result, the region’s Han population has jumped from 6 percent in 1949 to more than 40 percent in 2000, according to the last census. The initiative has boosted incomes all around, but it has also set up an uncomfortable hierarchy. Many of the new bosses are Han, while the workers are from minority groups.

The bloody riots on Sunday show just how deep the mistrust between Han Chinese and other ethnic groups runs, and how quickly a seemingly minor disagreement can escalate. The violence began with a false Internet rumor about the rape of two Han women by Uighur workers. That led to a fight in a toy factory in the southern Chinese city of Shaoguan that left two Uighurs dead.

The investigation into the workers’ deaths, which some Uighurs felt was inadequate, sparked a demonstration in Urumqi on Sunday. The protest spun out of control as paramilitary troops fired on protesters and rioters torched cars and businesses. A number of Han bystanders said they were attacked without provocation. Two days later, violence broke out as vigilante Han groups launched retaliatory attacks on Uighurs.

The Chinese government has said that the situation in Urumqi is now under control. But it will take much longer to repair the psychological damage that the ethnically charged violence has wrought on local residents.

Fear on Both Sides

The five-story complex where Ye and Mu live — complete with its leaks, cracked cement and creaky doors — earlier housed 100 Uighur and Kazakh residents, who had come to Urumqi in search of a better life. Now all but 25 are gone. They have fled to parts of Xinjiang where Hans are fewer in number. Still, Ye has compassion for his Han neighbors.

“It isn’t just us who are scared of what’s going on. Hans are also scared,” Ye said. On Tuesday night, he said, he welcomed several Han women who needed refuge from the mob-fueled violence. As it turned out, everyone inside got lucky. The attackers moved on.

Some Uighur neighbors were not as fortunate. A 25-year-old who gave his name as Abu Budu said he was taking a walk with his older brother when he was suddenly surrounded by a Han Chinese mob.

He said he heard one man in the crowd tell the others not to beat the Uighurs, but then felt a blow to his head and lost consciousness. He woke up at the hospital with gashes across his back, a concussion and so many bruises on his face that it had turned black. He said he is being kept in a different ward from his brother and has been given no information about his condition. “They beat me without any reason,” he said.

At dawn Wednesday, people began packing to leave. Most took only small shopping bags, leaving furniture and other expensive but bulky items behind. But Ye and Mu’s family was stuck. They could not walk because Ye’s mother is nearly blind, and they could not find a taxi driver willing to take minorities across the city to the Uighur area.

Mu said she is angry not only at the Han Chinese who turned violent, but also at the Uighurs who did the same, leaving families like hers with few options.

Ye tried to reassure his family members about their future in the countryside.

“Life there will be all right,” he said. “It’s a small place and more peaceful. We will just do labor work and farm.”

Outside, the destruction of the one-room Uighur restaurant was drawing curious Han passersby. Several men armed with sticks stood on the sidewalk across the street from the restaurant, a few meters from the door to the apartment complex. They gazed at the entrance as another group of Uighurs — mostly women and children — trickled out, heads bowed so as not to make eye contact with the onlookers.

Researcher Zhang Jie contributed to this report.


As Unrest Spreads, Chinese President Skips Summit-Washington Post

As Unrest Spreads, Chinese President Skips Summit
Clashes Continue in Western City Amid Crackdown

By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, July 8, 2009


URUMQI, China, July 8 — Chinese President Hu Jintao canceled plans to attend a major summit in Italy and flew home early Wednesday after reports that chaos and panic had spread throughout the capital of China’s far western region of Xinjiang.

Since clashes erupted Sunday between the region’s Muslim Uighur minority and the dominant Han Chinese, leaving more than 150 dead, the government has deployed police and paramilitary troops, closed mosques, instituted a curfew and rounded up at least 1,400 people. Hu’s withdrawal from the Group of Eight summit, reported by state media, signaled his government’s growing concern about the unrest that continued to flare across this city.

Early Tuesday, a group of several hundred Uighur protesters, most of them women in head scarves, gathered to demand that their detained husbands and brothers be released and their dead be accounted for. At midday, Uighur and Han Chinese men traded blows at the train station until riot police dispersed them with tear gas. In the late afternoon, hundreds of Han Chinese men armed with everyday items such as kitchen knives, shovels, hammers and pipes began smashing Uighur food stalls and stores, and headed to a local mosque.

Around the same time, the No. 2 People’s Hospital was under siege as protesters demanding the bodies of the dead, which have not yet been released to the families, clashed with police who fired warning shots at the crowd.

Witnesses reported casualties in Tuesday’s clashes, but the local government did not immediately say how many people had been injured or killed, if any.

The continuing violence underscored the extent of the mistrust between Uighurs and Han Chinese and how close the city remains to another major clash. The conflict erupted after what started as a peaceful demonstration by Uighurs apparently spun out of control. Since then, protests have broken out in Kashgar, Yili, Aksu and other major cities in Xinjiang.

There were protests overseas as well. At the Chinese Embassy in Amsterdam, demonstrators on Tuesday threw stones and eggs and burned a Chinese flag; in Munich, Molotov cocktails were tossed at the Chinese consulate’s front gate; a small group of demonstrators also rallied in Washington.

The Chinese government has sought to play down any violence carried out by government troops and instead has focused on the rioting against Han Chinese. In one segment repeatedly aired by the state-run CCTV, a Han woman was shown bleeding on a street as Uighur men threw bricks at her. Local officials have declined to release the full ethnic breakdown of the dead and injured but have said that at the People’s Hospital, 233 of the 291 victims were Han, 39 were Uighur and the rest were from other ethnic groups.

Zhao Zongyu, a 45-year-old Han shoe seller, said he had witnessed dozens of Han Chinese beating up about five young Uighurs because the attackers felt they were being “too happy and arrogant.” He said he was worried that some Han Chinese are now eager to seek retribution for the damage caused by Uighur rioters Sunday.

“I beat you, and you beat me. I don’t know when the revenge will finish. This is the big problem facing all of us,” Zhao said.

The violence is largely rooted in Uighur resentment toward Han Chinese. Ever since the government initiated a campaign to expand development to this western frontier, Uighurs have complained that they have been subject to political, cultural and religious persecution. A number of Uighurs say the government is now trying to cover up killings by security forces.

One Uighur man in Urumqi, who asked that his name not be used because he feared arrest, said police have cordoned off Uighur neighborhoods and have been raiding homes to arrest people at random.

On Tuesday at one end of the Uighur quarter, where stores and restaurants had just reopened, the scene looked almost normal around lunchtime, with residents running daily errands. But shortly before 2, word spread through phone calls, text messages and word of mouth that Han attackers were on the way.

In a Han area half an hour later, people began to flee when a man raced across a bridge and shouted, “The Uighurs are coming!”

On Changjiang Street, a mostly Han cluster of stores near the bazaar where the rioting occurred Sunday, thousands of men and women of all ages stood with weapons. In one cluster of about a dozen people, a man stood banging his stick on the ground. “If we see Uighur people, we will beat them — except the women,” he said to cheers.

Not everyone was armed for an offensive attack.

As they waited on the street for someone to take them home, two Han siblings — a woman armed with a wooden stick and her brother, who carried a shovel and a box cutter — warily scanned the street for signs of unrest.

“You can’t say all Uighurs are bad, but some are cruel. You have to protect yourself and your family,” said the man, a 21-year-old college graduate, who provided only his last name, Li.

Researchers Zhang Jie in Urumqi and Wang Juan and Liu Liu in Beijing contributed to this report.


Scores Killed in Ethnic Riots in China-Washington Post

Scores Killed in Ethnic Riots in China
Violence Between Muslim Uighurs and Police Is Among Nation’s Deadliest

By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, July 7, 2009


URUMQI, China, July 7 — Clashes between Muslim Uighur protesters and security forces have killed at least 156 people in China’s far west, state media said Monday, in what appears to be one of this country’s bloodiest outbreaks of violence in recent history.

The capital of China’s Xinjiang region, Urumqi, was under heavy guard after a crowd of rioters, estimated to number more than 1,000 and armed with knives and sticks, faced off against police in the city’s main bazaar on Sunday, according to witnesses. As word of the fighting spread, smaller incidents of retaliatory violence erupted across Urumqi at universities, bus stops and restaurants.

Early Tuesday, the official New China News Agency reported that Chinese police had dispersed “more than 200 rioters” trying to gather at the main mosque in Kashgar, another city in Xinjiang.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that a fresh protest broke out in Urumqi, with about 200 Uighurs blocking a main road in a standoff with security forces. Some of the protesters were screaming that their husbands and children had been arrested, AP said.

State media reported Monday that more than 1,000 people had been injured in the Sunday rioting, and that more than 1,400 had been arrested. It was unclear who suffered the heaviest casualties — protesters, bystanders or security forces. Telephone and Internet communication in the area was severely restricted, making it difficult to verify government reports. In Urumqi, the roads were empty Monday night, and stores and restaurants normally open late were closed.

Ethnic tensions are high in Xinjiang, which has experienced sporadic bursts of violence in recent years. Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking minority group, have long complained that, like ethnic Tibetans, they have been subjected to political, cultural and religious persecution under the rule of Han Chinese, the country’s ethnic majority. The ruling Communist Party has gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent tensions from flaring, particularly during this symbolic year, the 60th anniversary of Communist China’s founding.

The violence in Xinjiang was in many ways reminiscent of the ethnic uprising in Tibet in spring 2008, when riots erupted after a protest in the capital, Lhasa. In those riots, which spread quickly throughout the region, the Chinese government insisted the death toll had been contained to 13, even as the Tibetan government in exile insisted the number was closer to 220.

In Washington, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that the administration is “deeply concerned” about the reports from China and called “on all in Xinjiang to exercise restraint.” He added, however, that circumstances surrounding the incident were unclear. A State Department spokesman said officials would raise their concerns about the violence with China’s deputy foreign minister, who was visiting Washington on Monday.

State TV reports showed Uighurs attacking Han Chinese bystanders but said nothing about deaths or injuries resulting from police action. The government blamed the bloodshed on exile groups and others it cast as agitators — specifically Rebiya Kadeer, a Uighur leader living in exile in the Washington area — saying they are separatists plotting against Chinese rule. China made similar claims last year against the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

“Their accusations are completely false,” Kadeer said at a news conference in Washington on Monday, speaking through an interpreter. “I did not organize the protests or call on the Uighurs to demonstrate.”

She condemned the use of force by both sides and denounced what she called “brutal suppression” of her people by the Chinese government. She also called on the White House to release a stronger statement on the government’s treatment of the Uighurs.

Uighur supporters plan to gather in Dupont Circle at 2 p.m. Tuesday and march to the Chinese Embassy, where a formal demonstration is to begin at 3:30.

Witnesses to the violence in Urumqi said that Sunday had started relatively peacefully, with several hundred demonstrators gathering to call for a more thorough investigation of the deaths of two Uighurs last month at a toy factory in southern China. The protesters had gathered in the Grand Bazaar, a marketplace where vendors hawk nuts, fruit and kebabs and where members of the Uighur community assemble at night.

Ao Simin, 60, who works at a retail store near the south gate of the bazaar, said he saw thousands of “Uighur young people” walking past his door shouting slogans. Ao said that although he had heard rumors about Han Chinese being beaten by Uighur protesters carrying sticks, he “saw them with empty hands.” The city appeared calm.

Another witness, Adam Grode, 26, an American who is in Urumqi on a Fulbright scholarship, said that about 6:30 p.m., the situation turned. He said he saw protesters throwing stones and vegetables at police and smashing windows. Soon afterward, the police were “chasing them down with shields and fire hoses,” he said.

Tang Yan, 21, a Han Chinese who works at a drugstore, said that her boss stepped outside, only to be leapt upon by Uighur rioters. The attackers — carrying benches, tables and bricks — reportedly smashed the windows of the store, then entered the supermarket next door and set it on fire. She fled with other employees of nearby stores to the safety of their homes.

“All the residents living in my building are Han Chinese. We were afraid that some people would rush in and hurt us. All the men in the building patrolled the courtyard the whole night,” Tang recalled.

Han Chinese and Uighurs have occasionally clashed in Urumqi on a smaller scale. But the city, which is majority Han, was supposed to be a showcase for a more prosperous and stable Xinjiang.

Through a government campaign dubbed “Develop the West,” some of China’s most revered companies — from the wealthy Han-dominated coastal areas — have been given tax breaks, free rent and other incentives to expand their operations to this frontier.

Although the government has helped develop the region, workers from minority ethnic groups — which include not only Uighurs but also Kazakhs and Mongolians — complained that their Han bosses provided them with only menial work and hired other Hans for higher-paying skilled jobs.

Minority groups have also accused the government of pursuing a policy of cultural assimilation. Officials have expanded efforts to make Mandarin the dominant language. Male civil servants who were Uighur were told to shave the beards they had grown for religious reasons. And teachers and schoolchildren were ordered not to fast during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan.

The protesters who initially gathered in Urumqi on Sunday appeared to have been mindful not to push their case too far.

Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress who is in exile in Sweden, said protesters reportedly carried a Chinese flag to show they were not part of an independence movement. He said demonstrators were shouting slogans such as “Stop racial discrimination” and “Punish the criminals severely.”

Staff writer Greg Gaudio in Washington and researchers Zhang Jie in Urumqi and Liu Liu and Wang Juan in Beijing contributed to this report.


The Mother of the Uighur Movement

The Mother of the Uighur Movement
Leading Protest on Chinese Embassy, Rioting Region’s Exile Looms Large

By David Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 9, 2009


The translators kept bursting into tears.

That was a problem for Rebiya Kadeer, the tiny and fiery matriarch of the Uighur diaspora, who lives in Fairfax County and who was leading a protest march on the Chinese Embassy in Washington on Tuesday.

She was speaking Uighur, the Turkic language of her people. Unlike her younger translators who spelled one another at the bullhorn, Kadeer, 63, scarcely betrayed weakness in the fierce planes and furrows of her face. Although the Chinese Embassy said she “instigated” the bloody rioting in her homeland in far western China, she looked almost serene.

Her problem: How do you get the message to the wider world, via the assembled television cameras, if the message comes out soused and doused in sobs and wailing?

Or maybe that is the message.

The violence this week leaves many Uighurs in a state of pure, helpless emotion. Some say loved ones have been killed. Others can’t reach friends and fear the worst.

The riots and the crackdown in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region, are proving to be a perverse opportunity. For much of their history, the Uighurs — pronounced “wee-gers” — have been a relatively obscure, Muslim ethnic minority. This week they have been elevated closer to the Tibetans in terms of publicity for civil rights struggles in China.

This is the Uighurs’ moment. And Kadeer, they say, is their “mother.”

“Every day Uighurs are dying!” Kadeer said through a now-composed translator. “I consider myself the voice of millions of Uighur people. I consider myself as their tears.”

Chinese officials say Kadeer’s role in the recent bloodshed is more than symbolic. The Associated Press cites officials saying they have a recording of Kadeer speaking by phone to a relative in Urumqi, discussing in advance demonstrations that occurred last weekend.

Kadeer rejects the charge. She says she indeed called her brother to alert him to announcements being circulated by others on the Internet. “I urged my brother to stay at home that day, and to ask my other family members to stay at home as well, fearing that they may be subject to violence at the hands of the authorities if they ventured outside,” she said. “In no way did I call on anyone, at any time, to demonstrate.”

The initial Uighur demonstration in Urumqi came in response to attacks on Uighurs at a factory late last month. The demonstration turned violent, with Uighurs reportedly attacking majority Han Chinese and their businesses. This prompted succeeding episodes of Uighurs and majority Han Chinese fighting each other. Troops were called out. Chinese authorities say 156 people have been killed, but Uighurs say hundreds more have died.

Kadeer said she condemned any violence committed by Uighurs, but blamed the authorities: “The Chinese police provoked the violence.”

The metaphorical mother of millions has 11 children of her own. Two of her sons are in prison in China. A former laundress, she built a successful business empire in trade, retail and restaurants and was hailed by the government as proof that opportunity exists in China. She joined the national government consultative body.

But she used her prominence to support Uighur causes and spoke against what she considered assaults on Uighur rights and culture. She was jailed in 1999 for allegedly “passing intelligence” — in the form of publicly available news articles — to foreigners. Freed in 2005, she was exiled to the United States.

Since then she has become president of the Uyghur American Association, which advocates for the estimated 1,000-plus Uighurs in the United States (including about 300 around Washington), and president of the World Uyghur Congress, an umbrella group for the estimated 2 million Uighurs outside western China. Chinese officials allege that the congress had a hand in sparking the violence. An estimated 8 million to 10 million Uighurs live in China, where they say they face religious and linguistic persecution.

A number of Uighurs spent years in the Guantanamo Bay prison on terrorism charges that the U.S. government has since retracted; last month Bermuda agreed to accept four of the 17 still in the prison.

For the demonstration Tuesday, Kadeer wore a tan business suit and a traditional four-cornered Uighur cap of maroon cloth embroidered with gold. She was clutching a red cellphone, her main organizing tool and protest weapon. Her hair was gathered in two long black braids, flecked with gray. Later she got hungry, and sitting on the ground near the Chinese Embassy, she had a slice of pizza with onions and green peppers.

The tough movement matriarch was still muttering about the inarticulate emotion of some of her comrades. “Everyone got to the microphone and started crying and didn’t translate well,” she said.

She speaks carefully around the question of full independence for Uighurs. She does not accept the label of “separatist.”

“The Chinese government suppresses us so much,” she said. “What my people want is what I want, and they want freedom.”

Singling out Kadeer, Chinese officials could blame the riots on outside forces rather than discontent at home. But at the same time, experts on the Uighur movement say officials may have strengthened Kadeer’s status as a rallying heroine for Uighurs.

“She makes a great figurehead, because she’s a woman, because she’s Muslim, because she’s outspoken, and she’s a mother,” said Linda Benson, a professor at Oakland University in Michigan, who specializes in western China. “There’s been a need for a long time for that movement to have a major figure that they can call upon to represent them.”

“She is an incredibly warm, charismatic, accessible person,” says Sophie Anderson, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “Even though I don’t speak a word of Uighur, she’s such an animated person, you feel you know what she’s saying, she’s so compelling.”

An important financial supporter for three of the advocacy groups Kadeer leads is the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based, taxpayer-funded bipartisan outfit chaired by former congressman Richard A. Gephardt. The endowment gave about $550,000 to those groups last year. Kadeer receives a small salary through one of the groups, said Louisa Greve, the endowment’s director for East Asia.

“Her political sense as a political fighter for democracy is unparalleled,” Greve said.

The work is more than full time, says Kadeer’s second husband, Sidik Rouzi, who works part time for Radio Free Asia. “Even on weekends, she never gets off the phone, sometimes two phones to her ears, talking to the people around the world,” he said.

Rouzi, a Uighur activist, also served time in prison. Kadeer met him after he got out, in the mid-1970s. She was divorced. “She said, ‘I’m going to marry the guy who loves his nation,’ ” he said. “In our culture, the man speaks first to the woman. But this time it was different, and she’s the one who came and said, I will marry you.”

More than 100 Uighurs gathered with Kadeer before marching to the embassy. They waved blue and white flags of the Uighurs, and they wiped their feet on a Chinese flag defaced with a swastika. Younger demonstrators painted their faces blue and white, wore blue and white headbands and dyed their hair blue. Young men wore the blue and white uniform of their local amateur soccer team, Uighurs United.

“She is the symbol of freedom and the mother of our country,” said Amir Kashgari, 19, who immigrated with his family as a child.

The only moment when Kadeer’s eyes appeared to mist over was when the youngest of her 11 children, Kekenus Sidik, 19, a sophomore at Georgetown University, took the bullhorn and exhorted the crowd in a scream of English: “We have been cheated, murdered, raped, violated, deprived, betrayed, discarded, sold and tortured for too long!”

Sidik is the child Kadeer almost lost. What made her mother’s eyes well was recalling how Chinese officials had wanted her to abort her last baby, because she was way over the birth quota.

Kadeer, meanwhile, is the mother Sidik can’t completely have.

“I have to learn to share her with everyone else, everyone in my country, everyone here,” the daughter said. “She’s a special mother. She’s everyone’s mother.”


Ethnic Rioting Kills 3 In Restive Region-Washington Post

World Digest

Monday, July 6, 2009



Washington Times Reporter Released

Iran said Sunday that it has released a British-Greek journalist detained for two weeks during its post-election crackdown as opposition forces pressing their claims of fraud called for parliament to dismiss President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The freelance reporter for the Washington Times, Iason Athanasiadis, was accused of “illegal activities” during the protests that followed the June 12 presidential election. He was thought to be the only journalist without Iranian citizenship among the hundreds of journalists, bloggers and activists detained.

Greece’s Foreign Ministry confirmed his release and said he would leave Iran “within the day.”

The government’s crackdown has quelled days of deadly street unrest, but authorities are still grappling with how to handle the fallout from an election that has exposed divisions in the streets and in the clerical leadership. The opposition has claimed widespread election fraud and has asserted that opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi is the true winner, not Ahmadinejad.

— Associated Press



Ethnic Rioting Kills 3 In Restive Region

Three people died in rioting in China’s restive far west Xinjiang region, state media reported, in a confrontation that underscored the tense divide there between Han Chinese and the Uighur ethnic minority.

The official New China News Agency said rioters “illegally gathered in several downtown places and engaged in beating, smashing, looting and burning” in the regional capital, Urumqi.

The dead were “three ordinary people of the Han ethnic group,” the news agency said. It did not say how they died.

Nor did the official reports specify the ethnicity of those involved in the unrest or the reasons behind it. Calls to the Xinjiang government spokesman’s office and Urumqi police were not answered.

But other sources said the clash involved members of the Uighur community, many of whom resent the Chinese presence in the region, and the cultural and religious controls imposed by China’s ruling Communist Party.

Many Uighurs complain they are marginalized economically and politically in their own land, which has rich mineral and natural gas reserves.

— Reuters



2 British Soldiers Die In Insurgent Attacks

Insurgent attacks killed two British soldiers in the southern Afghanistan region where thousands of U.S. Marines pushed forward with the American military’s biggest anti-Taliban offensive since the hard-line Islamist regime was toppled in late 2001.

The deaths came as gunmen in the east abducted 16 mine clearers working for the United Nations.

A rocket-propelled-grenade attack killed a soldier near Gereshk in Helmand province Saturday, and a roadside bomb killed another soldier nearby on the same day, the British Defense Ministry said Sunday. A total of 173 British personnel have died in Afghanistan since 2001.

— Associated Press



Exit Polls Show Win For Right-Wing Party

Bulgaria’s right-wing opposition party won Sunday’s parliamentary election by a wide margin over the corruption-tainted governing Socialist coalition, according to two exit polls.

Official election results are not expected until Monday, but Sofia Mayor Boiko Borisov, leader of the right-wing Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, said his party expects to lead the nation, with him serving as prime minister.

“I will take the responsibility to lead the next government,” Borisov said in a television interview.

His party did not appear to win an outright majority, and Borisov seemed to acknowledge that by saying he will await the final results to determine whether he will need to form a coalition government.

— Associated Press



Bomb Blasts in Mosul And Baqubah Kill 2

Attackers targeted police patrols in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, killing a police officer with a grenade and injuring 14 people in a car bomb blast, authorities said.

Separately, bombs in Baqubah, northeast of Baghdad, killed one civilian and injured 14 others, police said.

The attacks highlight how the two cities remain hubs of insurgent activity despite big security gains in Iraq. American combat troops completed a withdrawal from Iraqi cities on June 30, ahead of a full U.S. withdrawal by the end of 2011.

In Mosul, police and medical officials said the grenade attacks also injured six people, including two police.

— Associated Press

At Least 22 Die in Flooding in Vietnam: More heavy rain is forecast to strike mountainous northern Vietnam on Monday after floods and landslides last week killed 22 people and left 14 others missing, the government said.

Thirteen people died in Bac Kan province and another 10 were missing as their homes were buried in landslides triggered by heavy rains late last Friday, the government said in its updated disaster report.

— Reuters