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Q&A with Uighur spiritual leader Rebiya Kadeer

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Q: Uighur grievances include restrictions on religion, the study of history, forced abortions, and other policies. If Beijing ever asked you what is the first policy you wish changed, what would you say?

A: The worst is China's use of the global war on terror to hold us as a people to three alleged crimes: terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism. To pin that on the entire population in the media and the minds of Chinese is worse than restrictions on language, on religion, on the ongoing forced transfer of young Uighur women to work in factory sweatshops.

It is worse than the Mao Zedong years. Under Mao, during the Cultural Revolution, Uighurs were badly treated. But we could speak our language, study our history. We had our land. At that time, Chinese authorities were not sending great numbers of Han to populate Xinjiang as you see today.

Q: Do you think President Obama should speak to the issue – or is this too problematic for overall US-China relations?

A: It would be important for the Obama administration to voice strong concern and send a message to the Chinese government. US involvement in this could help prevent a worsening crackdown. I urge him to ask the Chinese government to release all arrested Uighurs, and other political prisoners. I hope President Obama will call on the Chinese government not use heavy measures, especially executions.

Q: Chinese president Hu Jintao and Xinjiang party leaders call for harsh measures, including executions. What would be the effect?

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