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A jailed dissident from China's remote Xinjiang province, who is seen as a prominent symbol of the Uighur ethnic minority's struggle for human rights, has been awarded a major prize by Norway's Thorolf Rafto Foundation for Human Rights.

On 26 January 2005, the foundation held an award ceremony in Washington, D.C., where it presented the 2004 Rafto Memorial Prize to the family of Rebiya Kadeer.

Kadeer, who has criticised the Chinese government's repressive treatment of Uighurs, is serving an eight-year jail sentence in China on charges of "providing secret information to foreigners." In August 1999, she was arrested while attempting to meet with US congressional staff to talk about human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Amnesty International has adopted Kadeer as a prisoner of conscience and expressed grave concern about reports that her health is deteriorating. A businesswoman, Kadeer founded the "Thousand Mothers Movement" in 1997 to promote job training and employment for Uighur women. Kadeer also established evening schools for Uighurs who did not have the opportunity to go to ordinary school.

Previous winners of the Rafto Memorial Prize include Nobel Peace Prize laureates Shirin Ebadi and Aung San Suu Kyi.

For more information, see:

- Rafto Foundation:
- Amnesty International:
- Backgrounder on Human Rights in Xinjiang:
- US to Push for Release of Kadeer:
- Uighur Human Rights Project:

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