Rebiya Khadeer in Western Europe

Ribiya Khadeer may have been rejected from a visit to the isle of Taiwan, but she continues to move internationally and stir discussion of Chinese policies in Xinjiang.

This past week she has been in Paris, which I suppose can be considered, in its own fashion, and with apologies to San Francisco and New York, the center of the world.

Rebiya Khadeer in Paris -- via a wild and beautiful hagiographical essay on Le Monde's Central Asia blog -- click image for the essay and more photos

In Paris, Khadeer met with the French Ambassador for Human Rights, Francois Zimeray, with whom she pressed the case for “hundreds of Uighur students in France” who have been unable to return home for fear of political oppression.  A spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry confirmed that Khadeer was not granted a meeting with Foreign Minister Bernhard Kouchner, likely to the pleasure of the Chinese Ambassador to France, but to the evident consternation of Amnesty International France.  Amnesty’s spokesperson in Paris demanded “bilateral talks at the soonest possible time” with China over the question of human rights in Xinjiang, a demand which Sarkozy is sure not to consider for fear of taking yet another bruising in the area of huge contracts which French companies are trying to reap in China.

Some commentary on the snub and a longer story about Khadeer in Paris can be found on Rue89’s fantastic “Chinatown” blog.

The intriguing Association France-Tibet also carries a short item on the visit.

Excerpts from her interview with Amnesty International are available here, in French.

Liberation carries an extensive profile/interview with the Uighur exile leader by Philippe Grangereau, the paper’s able East Asia correspondent.

Here’s the opening salvo from that article:

«Séparatiste», «extrémiste», «terroriste», trois épithètes qui riment avec Rebiya Kadeer, si l’on en croit le gouvernement chinois, qui n’en finit pas de diaboliser cette grand-mère de 62 ans. «Le label “terroriste” est un outil très utile à la Chine pour persécuter les Ouïghours… Vous savez, le gouvernement chinois considère maintenant la plupart des Ouïghours comme des terroristes», réplique la femme d’affaires et politicienne, tout en caressant la longue natte de cheveux qui descend sur son ventre.

0r, in my primitive rendering:

“Separatist,” “extremist,” and “terrorist” are three epithets which rhyme with Rebiya Kadeer, if one believes the Chinese government, which itself has not finished demonizing this 62-year-old grandmother.   “The label ‘terrorist’ is a tool which is often used in China to persecute the Uighurs…You know, the Chinese government currently considers most Uighurs to be like terrorists,” protests this knowledgeable woman [femme d’affaires] and politician, while caressing her long braid of hair which descends into her lap.

The article goes on to recount her travels to Japan, Australia, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Austria — anywhere she can create good relations between her turkophone constituents and the world beyond.

Khadeer explains that Xinjiang is distinct from “East Turkestan” –a label with  which China seems eager to paste her as a separatist — distinct from Tibet and Inner Mongolia.  What the Uighurs want, she describes, is real autonomy.  The article concludes with lengthy discussion of her family remaining in Xinjiang and her views of the July “massacre” in Urumqi.

In an accompanying article, Grangereau goes on to explain the strategic value of, and historical issues with, Xinjiang.  He also reveals that we have a disagreement between PRC statistics and Khadeer’s interpretation of something as simple as Xinjiang’s demographics in the period of the CCP takeover of the region in 1949.  (The CCP says that in 1949, 6% of the population in Xinjiang was Han, while Khadeer argues that downwards to 2%.)  As in the case of the Dalai Lama, both sides still have a ways to go until agreement is reached on basic facts.

A little sidebar reminds us that the Uighurs are spread all over Central Asia, with a total demographic of 11.2 million, 500,000 of whom live in one of the world’s most multi-ethnic states, and wonderfully so, Kazakhstan.

The Chinese Embassy in Paris seems to be staying quiet about the visit, preferring instead to celebrate the opening of another Confucius Institute (this one in Angers, the Loire), or commemorating the victims of the Rape of Nanking.  But most of all, it appears that the CCP is firmly focused insofar as Europe is concerned this week with the goings-on in Copenhagen.   Not so much as an update to that enlivening source of PRC-Xinjiang propaganda, True Xinjiang!  Occasionally Beijing does do something right.


  1. I don’t know which is more unfortunate: legitimate grievances symbolized by a joker which sort of rendered the whole issue a joke (and doing a disservice to their cause) or a government that has unwittingly and unwisely made it so.

    1. Juche,

      Is Khadeer really “a joker”? It seems that the CCP, at least, has been taking her quite seriously. Perhaps you’re referring to her penchant for marketing or narcisissm? I haven’t read any of her biographical or other works, so can’t really say whether I agree or not, just wondering if you could elaborate a little bit on why she’s not someone to reckon with if the CCP takes her seriously. But then again, the second part of your rather well-constructed sentence, come to think of it, implies as much: the CCP made a misstep by elevating Khadeer, something I’ve heard from both James Fallows (on his blog) and Sidney Rittenberg (in person, and more than once).

      Thanks for the comment — I’ve been getting a bit behind on responding due to academic obligations, so my apologies if I left any of your previous remarks un-replied to. I really enjoyed your NK currency entry recently.

      1. Adam,

        You got it right, the unsophisticated and sometimes clumsy Chinese government (especially the MOFA) made a nobody like Kadeer into a globally-renown poster child for the so-called “ET” cause. Did anyone know who she is before the Chinese government hysterically bitching about her dumb movie at the Melbourne film festival? No. Did anyone know who she is before the Chinese government scrambled to ask foreign governments to ban her from entering their territories? What really troubles me is that the Chinese government hasn’t learnt anything from the Dalai Lama PR fiasco. Not a thing.

        Actually describing Kadeer as a joker is quite insulting to all the jokers out there, she is not even there yet. Some of the stupid things and lies she said and told sort of made her an ideal candidate for a post within the Chinese government if you ask me. Check out the video of a repenting Kadeer before she was released from prison on youtube and you will see what I mean. She deserves an Academy award.

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