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.
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.
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.