“I was a political prisoner of the Chinese government. I saw torture and cruelty against my people,” said Rebiya Kadeer at this morning’s session of the Geneva Summit. Kadeer is the leader and most prominent human rights advocate of the Uyghur people.
Kadeer and Chinese dissidents Phuntsok Nyidron and Yang Jianli shared their personal stories of suffering and survival at this morning’s first panel, “Rising Powers, Rising Rights Compliance? Case Study of China.”Called the “mother of the Uyghur nation,” Rebiya Kadeer spent six years in a Chinese prison after standing up to the authoritarian Chinese government. Her own sons are serving decade long sentences in China without due process. She also described the case of a young Uyghur protester, whose wounded, lifeless body was anonymously returned to his family.
“When his family dared to tell journalists of his killing, the government jailed two of them. Many others have been left to die in prisons. The Chinese government has cut internet and telephone communications,” said Kadeer. Many other such cases exist and are not recorded.”The interest in the plight on the Uyghur people will shine a light into one of the darkest corners of the world,” she said.”
Human rights is the concern of all right thinking people,” said UN Watch chairman and panel moderator Ambassador Alfred Moses. “The repressive regime in China will not survive. Oppression cannot survive. When the Chinese regime changes, the banner that will be in the streets will the banner that says ‘Remember Tianamen Square.'”
The panel’s second speaker, Yang Jianli, was himself locked in solitary confinement for five years after taking part in the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square.”My story is not important for being exceptional. It is the story of many Chinese,” said Jianli. Describing the universality of human rights abuse, his own solitary confinement is the shared reality of thousands of political prisoners.” Some have been sent in to exile overseas, others are jailed, followed or monitored.”
He pressed the importance of the Internet to push forward democracy in China. “Wherever the Internet reaches, it increases government transparency for the benefit of all mankind.” Heavy censoring and broadband interference in China has become rampant, and viewed by the Chinese government as a “scourge.” Jianli said, “The cost of censorship will outpace the cost of circumventing censorship. It will be impossible to maintain, China will not be able to control the will of a billion citizens.”
Phuntsok Nyidron, a Buddhist nun jailed in Lhasa for singing songs praising the Dalai Lama, was the longest-serving Tibetan political prisoner in China. ”
I want to tell you what a day was like in a Chinese prison. My right hand was stretched over my right shoulder, and a guard stood on a table and pulled me up by my handcuffs. Electric bags were put in my mouth, my fingers were popped by needles and cigarettes burned on my face. I was shocked with electric wires until I fell unconscious. They poured cold water to wake me up and tortured me again. That day, I did not see a single drop of water.”
Despite her continuing physical ailments, Nyidron is a leading and active voice for Tibetan political prisoners. “In 1992, when we were jailed, I saw a nun’s leg removed from her body. We screamed through the windows.” She called for remembrance for those who died in prisons and continue to languish today. “When one of us saw that another one was singing and shouting, we all did. Soon the entire prison was shouting, too.”
“China must determine its own future,” Jianli said. “The citizens of China will look to the world to weigh in on the side of the people.”