In depth


 
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"Those sent back to China were either killed or sentenced to life in jail."

She said the lack of action from Muslim countries contrasted with support given by other governments.

"Our only friend is in the West - Western democracies are supporting us and we are very grateful," Kadeeer, who heads the World Uighur Congress, told reporters.

"We certainly hope that more Muslim countries will raise our situation."

'Propaganda'

"So far the Islamic world is silent about the Uighurs' suffering because the Chinese authorities have been very successful in its propaganda to the Muslim world"

Rebiya Kadeer

Kadeer attributed the lack of action from Muslim countries to what she said was the success of Chinese "propaganda" to the Muslim world.

"So far the Islamic world is silent about the Uighurs' suffering because the Chinese authorities have been very successful in its propaganda to the Muslim world."

That propaganda, she said, sent a message to the Muslim world "that the Uighurs are extremely pro-west Muslims - that they are modern Muslims, not genuine Muslims."

At the same time, she said, to Western countries the Chinese government "labelled Uighur leaders as Muslims terrorists with links to al-Qaeda - so the propaganda has been pretty effective on both sides."

Thelim Kine, an Asia researcher from New York-based Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera that Beijing's accusations of Uighur links to "terrorist" groups had intensified since the 9/11 attacks in the US.

"Because they are Muslim they have been accused of carrying out what the government calls 'terrorist activities', as well as being linked to various organisations like al-Qaeda," he said.

'Mastermind'

China's government has blamed Uighur exiles for stoking the recent unrest, singling out Kadeer for "masterminding" the riots – claims she rejected as "completely false".

While she admitted that some Uighurs had been carried out attacks during Sunday's unrest, she said the violence was a symptom of Uighur frustration and resentment at China's repressive policies.

Her group, she said, has repeatedly called for only peaceful protests and urged all sides to exercise restraint.

As protests continue in Xinjiang and police arrest hundreds after the riots, Kadeer called for an international investigation into the unrest.

"We hope that the United Nations, the United States and the European Union will send teams to investigate what really took place in Xinjiang," she said.

"We hope the White House will issue a stronger statement urging the Chinese government to show restraint, and also to tell the truth of the nature of the events and what happened, and to tell the Chinese government to redress Uighur grievances."