Delhi shuts out Uighur matriarch

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  • Published 25.07.09

New Delhi, July 25: India has denied a visa to Rebiya Kadeer, the Uighur matriarch exiled by China, on the advice of Beijing which accuses the 62-year-old of inciting the recent violence in Xinjiang.

A former business tycoon whom China once toasted as a symbol of the success of its multi-ethnic culture, Kadeer is now trying to mobilise world opinion against Chinese oppression of Uighurs.

The mother of 11, who is backed by the US, had applied to the Indian mission in Germany for a visa sometime early this year, before the July riots. She apparently wanted to meet Indians sympathetic to her movement.

Government sources said Beijing was worried that she might meet the Dalai Lama in India. “We have an understanding with the Chinese government that we will not allow Indian soil to be used for political activities against China,” a senior official said.

The Uighur diaspora call Kadeer their “mother”. The tiny and fiery matriarch, two of whose sons are in prison in China, recently told a Washington rally: “I consider myself the voice of millions of Uighur people. I consider myself as their tears.”

Beijing claims the “East Turkestan terrorist forces” have been portraying Kadeer as a “figure comparable to the Dalai Lama to promote her international influence”. It also accuses her of plotting to sabotage communist China’s 60th anniversary celebrations. Kadeer has denied Chinese charges of spearheading the Xinjiang unrest.

Kadeer had started out as a laundress and gone on to build a business empire in trade, retail and restaurants. Beijing had held her up as proof that opportunity existed in China, and she joined the national government consultative body.

But after she began to speak against what she considered assaults on Uighur rights and culture, she was jailed in 1999. She was freed in 2005 under international pressure and exiled.

Soon, she was elected president of two diaspora groups: the Uighur American Association, which represents the 1,000 or so Uighurs in the US, and the Munich-headquartered World Uyghur Congress, which represents 47 Uighur groups worldwide.