Rebiya Kadeer is an advocate of greater autonomy for China’s Uyghur population and a human rights activist.
After building a property and department store empire from a single laundry shop, Kadeer had become the richest woman in China by 1993. She was lauded as an example of Uyghur success and appointed to a number of influential organisations and committees, including the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
Kadeer capitalised on her business ventures to mentor a massive number of Uyghurs and speak out against the hardships suffered by the Uyghur people. She used her platform at the National People’s Congress to speak out against the conditions in Xinjiang province and consequently had her passport confiscated.
Kadeer was imprisoned in 1999 en route to a meeting with a congressional delegation from the US and was convicted in 2000 of endangering national security, just for trying to share some newspaper clippings with her husband, living in exile in the United States.
She was freed in March 2005 and moved to the United States, where she continued to be harassed for her activism. In early 2006 she was rammed at an intersection in Virginia by a car traced back to the Chinese Embassy.
Until 2017 Kadeer was President of the World Uyghur Congress. She continues to be considered the “Spiritual Mother of the Uyghur Nation”.