If you happen to see many mentions of China in today’s news the vast majority of them will be speculations on China’s reaction to North Korea’s newly proclaimed membership as the eighth member of the “nuclear club.” China warned North Korea that it would be an unnecessarily provocative act to test a nuclear weapon but Kim Jong-il, the egomaniac that he is, decided to bite the hand that quite literally feeds it . . . China being one of it’s few sources of aide since North Korea walked out on the six-nation nuclear talks. On this issue and in this news coverage, China appears to be one of the ‘good guys.’

Another, mention of China, however, unrelated to North Korea but certainly newsworthy, can be found in Fred Hiatt’s column in today’s Washington Post. The story Mr. Hyatt tells has implications that shed a not so benevolent light on China.

In the 1990’s, China presented itself to the world as a socialist state that cared about the problems of ethnic minorities and, to prove that point, they elevated a successful minority businesswoman to a seat in China’s Parliament. That woman, Rebiya Kadeer, is a Uyghur; the Uyghurs are a small, mostly Moslem ethnic group who formerly had an autonomous homeland known as East Turkestan. Mrs. Kadeer took her new position in the Parliament very seriously and made the mistake of taking China’s public face at ‘face value.’ She started to work to allow the Uyghur people to regain the autonomy they had lost to China in 1949. Mrs. Kadeer’s activism went too far for the Chinese government; they put her in prison in August of 1999 for the “crime” of sending newspaper clippings to her husband, an expatriate and also active in the Uyghur separatist movement, who was living in the United States. Rebiya Kadeer stayed in prison until March of 2005 when she was released to the United States government on the condition that she would stop her activism.

Kadeer did not stop her activism and, as Fred Hiatt points out in his column today, in the 1-1/2 years she has been free she and her family have been harassed by the Chinese government. As you might suspect, her children, still in China, have been beaten and jailed but the attack against her has also been carried right here to the United States. Recently, men identified by the FBI as Chinese agents were spotted videotaping and photographing her home in suburban Virginia and there is reason to believe that Chinese agents were behind a hit and run “accident” she had back in January of this year.

It’s unsettling but perhaps not news that there are agents of foreign governments operating here in the United States, but the story of Rebiya Kadeer makes you realize that China, a country that is supposed to be on the road to “Westernization,” is really still operating as it did back in the late 1940’s when it ‘swallowed up’ the Uyghur people along with Turkestan.

News Links:

Fred Hiatt’s column: China’s Iron Grip; Beijing Harasses Dissidents — Even in America

Radio Free Asia’s coverage of Rebiya Kadeer’s arrival in the U.S.: China Frees Rebiya Kadeer

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