03/18/2005, 00.00
CHINA-USA
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I can work for my people, says Rebiya Kadeer

Uighur woman released yesterday arrives in the United States where she says she will continue to fight for the human rights of her people.

Chicago (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Rebyia Kadeer, a woman released yesterday by Chinese authorities, arrived in Chicago over night. Speaking to Radio Free Asia Ms Kadeer said: "I can smile at my people. I can work for my people, and I can work for the entire Uighur nation". To the Radio's Uighur-service, she said to "say goodbye to my people and my homeland for me."

John Kamm, president of the San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation and an activist who helped arrange her release, said he and his official contacts had been 'working intensely' for three weeks on Ms Kadeer's release.

He also said: "I've been led to believe ... that the Chinese are doing this as a gesture for Condi Rice. I was told they wanted to do this before she arrived."

Rebiya Kadeer, 58, is one of the best known activists for women's and Uighur rights. Uighurs  are predominantly Muslim and live in Xinjiang, China's western-most province, where a separatist movement has been demanding independence for some time.

Until 1999 Ms Kadeer was a successful businesswoman. She was then jailed on national security charges for sending Chinese newspapers to her husband in the US. She was first sentenced to eight years in prison, reduced to seven for good behaviour.

Her detention, which many human rights groups consider illegal, was taken up by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is to visit China in the next few days.

"We welcome the announcement of her release," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

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