Gun ho: Armed Chinese paramilitary police in riot gear stand guard in Urumqi yesterday. Violence flared in the area’s streets last week and 184 people died in the clashes. *Reuters photo
Gun ho: Armed Chinese paramilitary police in riot gear stand guard in Urumqi yesterday. Violence flared in the area’s streets last week and 184 people died in the clashes. *Reuters photo
The woman accused of being a terrorist ringleader in the wake of last week's deadly riots in Xinjiang claims ­China is distorting the facts to justify its brutal ­oppression of Muslim ­minorities.

Rebiya Kadeer insists she and the Uyghurs jailed in Guantanamo and now living in Bermuda are victims of the propaganda machine.

"Our only crime is we are Muslim and a minority," said Ms Kadeer, a two-time Nobel peace prize nominee.

She is known as the "mother of all Uyghurs" due to her campaigning on behalf of her people.

Violence erupted in north-west China last week when a peaceful protest by Uyghurs escalated into ­rioting, with reports police fired on demonstrators.

The Chinese government claim 184 people were killed - the majority of them Han Chinese.

The Government blames Ms Kadeer for orchestrating the uprising from the U.S. and has arrested ­hundreds of Uyghur men.

They have been warned they could face the death penalty. International ­human rights groups insist it is impossible to rely on information from China and have called for an independent inquiry into last week's events.

Ms Kadeer, who is also leader of the World Uyghur Congress, said: "China ­distorts facts in any kind of unrest to justify its heavy-handed rule in East Turkestan (Xinjiang).

"That is why you only see footage of Han Chinese beaten by Uyghurs on ­China's national CCTV.

"In fact, we believe that the majority of those killed and wounded are Uyghurs.

"CCTV never shows the security forces killing and wounding Uyghurs.

"The actual number of people killed and wounded are much higher than ­reported - we were told by Uyghurs on the ground."

Ms Kadeer claims the Chinese tried to paint her as a terrorist leader to ­silence her criticisms of their oppression of Uyghurs.

She added the same was true of Uyghurs who had spent time in Guantanamo Bay, four of whom are now living in Bermuda.

She said: "In the eyes of the Chinese government, all Uyghurs are potential terrorists or terrorist ­suspects. It is hard to clear your name if you are Muslim after 9/11 and it is hard to defend your right in an authoritarian country like China if you are a minority.

"Both the Uyghurs from Guantanamo and I are ­innocent."

Ms Kadeer insists she wants a peaceful resolution to the disturbances.

But she fears the Chinese government will use the conflict to heighten their ­aggression to Uyghurs.

Armed police have been patrolling the streets of Urumqi, where the ­violence flared last week, and officials admitted to shooting and killing two Uighyur 'lawbreakers' at the weekend.

Uyghur groups believe many more died at the hands of the police last week and say up to 1,000 may have lost their lives.

They also claim up to 3,000 Uyghurs have been ­arrested since July 5, when the trouble began, and have asked the United Nations to step in.

China insists only 137 Han Chinese, 46 Uyghurs and one Hui died in Urumqi last week.

Rushan Abbas, the interpreter for the Bermuda Uyghurs, claims reports from witnesses in Xinjiang indicate the Chinese figures are not credible.

She said: "They have fired shots at the crowd who are peacefully demonstrating on July 5th. 

"If the Chinese said 150-some people died and most of them are Han Chinese, how did they die?  

"If so many Han Chinese died, who faced bare-handed Uyghurs who came peacefully to demonstrate, then how many Uyghurs actually died when they have faced over 1,000 armed forces shooting bullets?"

The four Uyghurs living in Bermuda are praying for a swift and peaceful resolution to the conflict in their homeland.

Ms Kadeer hopes the one positive thing to come of the Uyghur nightmare is a greater awareness globally, and in Bermuda, about the oppression of her people.

She said: "There is a much better understanding of our plight now. But it has come at a huge sacrifice and loss of innocent lives. 

"I hope the wonderful people of Bermuda understand why Uyghurs leave their country and flee into Afghanistan.

"If given a choice, most would probably want to come to the U.S. or Europe but they can't. So they flee into neighbouring ­countries, like Afghanistan and ­Pakistan, where terrorists are infested.

"China portrays all Uyghurs who are not happy with its brutal rule in East Turkestan as one of the three evils of 'terrorist, separatist or extremist'."

Ms Kadeer praised ­Premier Ewart Brown for accepting Uyghurs and she hopes to visit the island to thank him personally.

She said: "I am confident the four will enjoy their life on the island and the people will come to ­understand they are innocent, decent humans who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time when picked up by U.S. forces."