Tue Nov 28, 2006
BEIJING (Reuters) – A Chinese Muslim dissident banished into exile in the United States last year after spending more than five years in prison has condemned China for persecuting her children, a statement seen on Tuesday said.
A court in China's remote northwestern region of Xinjiang jailed Rebiya Kadeer's youngest son for seven years for tax evasion, while another son was found guilty of the same charge but spared a jail term, state media reported on Monday.
A third son faces subversion charges and was seen being carried out of a detention centre on a stretcher on Nov. 26, apparently in need of medical attention, said the Washington-based Uighur Human Rights Project.
China keeps a tight grip on oil-rich Xinjiang, which shares borders with three former Soviet Central Asian republics, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia and Mongolia.
China calls Uighur militants terrorists and blames them for a string of bombings and assassinations in the 1990s. But human rights groups say China has used its support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism to justify a crackdown on Uighurs, including arbitrary arrests and use of the death penalty.
Kadeer is an ethnic Uighur.
The human rights group said it feared the son facing subversion charges may have been beaten or tortured.
"This treatment of my sons is the Chinese government acting on their vendetta against me, and by extension, their vendetta against any Uighur who would dare to stand up to them and dare to tell the truth," Kadeer said in a statement.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment. But it denounced her in September as a separatist who "frequently engaged in anti-Chinese splittist activities" and condemned her nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Kadeer insisted her sons were innocent and linked their persecution to her election as president of the World Uighur Congress in Munich on Nov. 26.
"The timing is more than cynical and less than human, and it shows the world yet again what the Chinese government and Communist Party does to its opponents and how little it cares for international opinion," she said.
Kadeer was once a member of the top advisory body to China's parliament but fell from grace and was arrested in 1999 while on her way to meet U.S. congressmen visiting Xinjiang.
She was jailed for more than five years in China for providing state secrets to foreigners — a charge critics say was trumped up — before she was released on medical parole last year and left for the United States.