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Q&A with Uighur spiritual leader Rebiya Kadeer

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Ms. Kadeer, speaking from Virginia, her residence after release from a Chinese prison in 2005, also addressed the alleged evidence that she orchestrated the violence. Beijing officials point to phone intercepts of Kadeer to Urumqi ahead of the protests saying "something big is going to happen." Kadeer says that she did "place a call" to her family. "It was a call to my family members there, after my daughter here [in Washington] saw announcements of the protest on web sites. My family has been targeted in China. I called my brother and said if something big happens do not go out. [I said] tell the relatives not to take part."

Kadeer spoke with the Monitor Saturday:

Q: Were you surprised at the fury and chaos on July 5?

A: I was quite surprised by the loss of so many lives. Initially the protest was peaceful. You could even see Uighurs in the crowd holding Chinese flags. There were women and children, and that seemed at first like a good thing. But the Uighurs were provoked by Chinese security forces – dogs, armored cars. What has not been noted are the plain clothes police who went in and provoked the Uighurs. My view is that the Chinese wanted a riot in order to justify a larger crackdown; its an attempt to create solidarity between the Han and the government at a time when there is insecurity. Provoking the crowd justifies that this was a Uighur mob.

Q: Some reports indicate that during the riots there were Han citizens helping and protecting Uighurs, and vice versa.

A: I am extremely grateful for both Han and Uighurs that protected each other in the riots. That should be the true relationship we should have with each other. But this Chinese government has created such a tragic situation, that it is not happening, generally, as it could.

Q: Several years ago, China tore down the bazaar around the old mosque in Kashgar, angering Uighurs. This year, the entire old city is being razed.

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