Xinjiang, 'more than 30' relatives of Rebiya Kadeer in jail for 'secession'

According to the Uyghur leader her family members are in prison or in forced labour camps (re-education). But their fate is similar to that of "millions of upright families". Meanwhile, Beijing’s crackdown intensifies.

Munich (AsiaNews/RFA) - More than 30 relatives of Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer are in jail, including two sons held previously for "secessionist activities" and "tax evasion" (picture 2).

Kadeer said that she was unsure of the whereabouts of her family members, though they are likely to have been “sent to prison or the political re-education camps” along with thousands of Uyghurs accused of harbouring “extremist” and “politically incorrect” views.

“Of my immediate relatives – including my children and grandchildren – altogether 11 have been detained,” she told RFA. “But if I include the children of my brother and other relatives, more than 30 are being held,” ranging in age from 22 to 58.

Rebiya Kadeer, the 70-year-old mother of 11 and a successful businesswoman, was imprisoned from 1999 to 2005 for sending news of the Uyghurs' situation abroad.

She was eventually allowed to go to the United States in exile. Since then, her children have either been arrested or detained for "secessionist activities".

After Kadeer became president of the Munich-based Uyghur World Congress, Beijing released videos of some of her children accusing her of "separatism”.

At any rate, she stressed Friday that her family is just one of “millions of Uyghur families . . . paying the price for demanding our legitimate rights”.

The Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, complain of economic and cultural colonisation in Xinjiang.

Some Uyghur groups seek the region’s independence, but most only want more autonomy.

Beijing, however, has accused the Uyghurs of separatism and terrorism, cracking down on them, as well as subjecting them to discrimination and religious repression.

Since February, the Chinese government has intensified its controls on the entire population, arresting hundreds of people.