(New York)—Human Rights Watch today condemned the harsh prison sentence handed down in the case of Uighur businesswoman Rebiya Kadeer. The eight year sentence was issued by the Urumqi Intermediate Court in Xinjiang, China on March 10. The international monitoring organization called for Kadeer's immediate and unconditional release.

"This conviction and prison sentence are totally unjustified," said Mike Jendrzejczyk, Washington director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch. "Just days before the opening of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, China is again carrying out summary trials— in this case for trying to meet a foreign delegation." The U.N. Commission convenes on March 20 in Geneva. "Given the further deterioration over recent months, the U.N. should adopt a strong resolution ," Jendrzejczyk added.
On February 21, 2000 the Urumqi City Procuracy officially accused Ms. Kadeer of "ignoring the law of the country and giving information to separatists outside the borders." Kadeer was detained on August 11, 1999, while on her way to meet with a U.S. Congressional staff delegation, whom she intended to give information about political prisoners in Xinjiang. She was convicted under Article 111 of the Chinese Criminal Law. According to Radio Free Asia, neither Kadeer nor her lawyer were allowed to speak at the trial.

Article 111 includes sentencing guidelines for anyone who provides state secrets or intelligence outside the country. The definition of state secrets in China is notoriously vague. Although there is nothing in the law that suggests that prisoner lists are state secrets, others who have made such lists public have received long sentences.

Ms. Kadeer's son, Ablikim Abyirim, and her secretary, Kahriman Abdukirim, were also detained in August and were adminsitratively sentenced to two-and three-year terms, respectively, on November 26, 1999. They are currently being held at the Walabai Reeducation Through Labor School. Human Rights Watch also called for their immediate release. Ms. Kadeer's husband, Sidik Rouzi, a former political prisoner, fled to the U.S.in 1996 and has commented on Uighur issues on Radio Free Asia and the Voice of America.

Jendrzejczyk also noted that the National People's Congress, currently meeting in Beijing, is discussing major new development plans for western China, including Xinjiang. Sentencing Kadeer, a former member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference until 1997, is only likely to increase concern about China's repressive treatment of the Uighur minority population.