China’s Other Minority, Seen by One of Its Own

In the New York Times, Howard French reviews the autobiography of Rebiya Kadeer and the plight of the Uighurs:

Most anachronistic of all, though, is the country’s treatment of its two largest minorities, the Tibetans and Uighurs, both old, non-Han indigenous civilizations that claim meaningful autonomy in China’s vast, resource-rich and sparsely populated west. Our Western legacy of land expropriation and slaughter of native peoples by European settlers and imperial armies may give us little to cluck about, but in today’s world the rights and interests of native peoples have rightly won greater recognition.

In this memoir, “Dragon Fighter,” part defiant political tell-all, part engrossing personal saga, paints a vivid picture of her life as a mother of 11 and a businesswoman who spent nearly six years in prison on her way to becoming the Uighur people’s most prominent dissident.

[…] On one level Ms. Kadeer’s book is a routine account of recent Chinese history. Much more interesting is its core autobiographical story: the remarkable rise from modest roots to a life as, the author claims, the wealthiest woman in China and a politically prominent member of the National People’s Congress.

Here, though, the book is marred by language that betrays limited modesty and perhaps even limited self-knowledge. We are constantly reminded of the author’s qualities: she is chaste, smart, beautiful, clever, strong, indomitable, selfless, moral, wise and fearless — especially fearless.

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