Leader of China’s Uighur Minority Builds a Stage Across the Globe

The New York Times looks at the war of words between the Chinese government and Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer, who has enjoyed the international spotlight ever since China’s leaders blamed her for the violence in Urumqi last July:

Since the unrest last summer, Ms. Kadeer has become the internationally recognized face of the Uighur people, a Muslim, Turkic-speaking minority who have long had a contentious relationship with China’s Han majority. Wherever she goes — from Germany to New Zealand — she handily draws attention.

A year ago, however, Ms. Kadeer was hardly noticed and her cause — greater autonomy for China’s Uighurs — largely unknown beyond a small, lonely band of rights advocates. “Until this year, I think a lot of Chinese would have had trouble identifying Rebiya Kadeer,” said Michael Davis, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who studies China’s relationship with its national minorities.

Ms. Kadeer has China to thank for her notoriety, which seems to increase each time she leaves Washington, her home since being freed from a Chinese prison in 2005 on the condition she go into exile.

In August, Chinese officials unleashed a fierce publicity campaign against her after the Melbourne International Film Festival invited her to attend a screening of a documentary about her life. Diplomats and Chinese citizens tried, and failed, to persuade festival organizers to rescind their invitation and pull the film. Last week, she barnstormed New Zealand for a few days and then flew to Germany, where she spoke at the Frankfurt Book Fair, infuriating China, which was the guest of honor.

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