China frees Uighur dissident; larger betrayal on rights goes unnoticed

Uighur businesswoman Rebiya Kadeer, freed from a Chinese prison in an apparent deal with Washington, arrived in Chicago March 17, rejoicing at her unexpected release and vowing to work "for the entire Uighur nation."

"From this time on, I am free," Kadeer told Radio Free Asia‘s Uighur-language service, speaking in her first interview since Chinese authorities handed her over to U.S. officials in Beijing on March 14, a year and a half before her expected release.

Kadeer was sentenced to prison in 2000 for sending press clips on the treatment of China’s ethnic Uighurs to her husband in the United States, "endangering national security". The release came ahead of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s scheduled arrival in Beijing on Sunday March 20. The March 18 NY Times headline read: "China Frees Muslim Woman Days Ahead of Rice’s Visit." The story made much of US pressure on China to end persecution of dissidents and minorities.

However, Save Tibet, the website of the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), noted that on the eve of Rice’s arrival in Beijing, the US government, citing unspecified "encouraging signals" from Chinese authorities, announced that it will not sponsor a resolution criticizing China’s human rights record at the current session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. "The timing of the announcement on the human rights resolution would seem to indicate that the United States is willing to trade off the resolution in order to ensure that Dr. Rice has a smooth trip to China. By sending this message to the Chinese, we are disappointed that the U.S. appears to be falling back into the trap of political prisoner trade-offs and empty summitry that the Bush Administration disavowed in its first term," said Mary Beth Markey, director of ICT.

Despite high-profile concessions such as that on Kadeer, Uighurs, Tibetans and other ethnic minorities in the People’s Republic of China continue to face harsh conditions. In February, the U.S. State Department released the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004, which found that Chinese authorities in Tibet "continued to commit serious human rights abuses, including extra-judicial killing, torture, arbitrary arrest, detention without public trial, and lengthy detention of Tibetans for peacefully expressing their political or religious views." The report noted the death in custody of Nyima Dragpa, a monk from Nyatso Monastery in Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, allegedly from severe beatings.

As WW4 REPORT has noted, US support for the rights of the Uighurs has been equivocal at best.