- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2002

Four daughters of a political prisoner in China made a teary-eyed plea to President Bush yesterday, asking him to lobby for the release of their mother who they said had been tortured and was in poor health after 2 years in detention.

Reyila, Akida, Kekonos and Rouxian Rouzi broke down in tears as they recounted the story of their mother, Rebiya Kadeer, who was arrested in China as she was on her way to meet visiting U.S. congressional officials on Aug 11, 1999. The young women spoke before a group of reporters at the National Press Club as part of an Amnesty International campaign.

"My mother is innocent," Akida Rouzi said between pauses to dry her eyes. "She was never involved in politics; she helped Uighur people."

Mrs. Kadeer, a mother of 10, was charged with "illegally passing information across the border" and sentenced to eight years in prison in March 2000.

The information was nothing more than newspaper clippings she planned to mail her husband in the United States, said T. Kumar, an Amnesty International official. Mr. Kumar told the reporters yesterday that the articles were a pretense to arrest Mrs. Kadeer, a prominent businesswoman and a women's rights activist for the Uighur people, a Muslim minority from China's western Xinjiang province.

"Mr. President, when you are winning trade privileges and pacts, how many human rights privileges will you bring back home?" asked Mr. Kumar, looking directly into a television camera at the back of the room.

He said Mr. Bush should call for an end to human rights abuses in China when he addresses Tsinghua University in Beijing today. He specifically mentioned the case of Gendun Choekyi Nyima, second only to the Dalai Lama in importance to Tibetan Buddhists. The 12-year-old was seized by Chinese authorities in 1995 and was not seen or heard since.

Today's speech would be an ideal time to address human rights issues because the Chinese government has stated it will not censor Mr. Bush's remarks, Mr. Kumar said.

"Speak up, Mr. President, you have a golden opportunity," Mr. Kumar said.

In anticipation of Mr. Bush's China visit, Amnesty International members have sent 5,000 e-mail messages to the White House and more than 2,500 to Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

Before her arrest, Mrs. Kadeer was seen as a model of Uighur success. A former laundress, she built a multimillion-dollar business and served on high-level government committees in Xinjiang.

Her daughters, who now live in the United States, have not seen their mother for more than four years. They were visiting the United States with their parents when their father, Sidik Rouzi, who spent 10 years as a political prisoner in China for organizing a student movement against the government, received word he would be arrested if he returned. Mrs. Kadeer went back alone and was arrested on her way to meet the congressional officials.

Mrs. Kadeer received support in Congress, which passed resolutions calling for her release, and 15 senators signed a letter on Feb. 15 urging Mr. Bush to seek her freedom when meeting Mr. Jiang.

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