Chinese police ransacked the headquarters and arrested four employees of a company owned by Rebiya Kadeer, a Muslim businesswoman who was released from prison two months ago and is now in the US, her daughter said.
Kadeer's son, who runs two of the company's nine restaurants, fled and remains in hiding, said the daughter, Akida Rouzi.
"We have heard he is going to be safe for the time being," Rouzi said Friday by telephone from her home in Virginia, where her mother is living.
Kadeer was arrested in 1999 on her way to a meeting with staff members of the US Congressional Research Service. She was never told why. However, she told reporters after her release in March that it probably was because she was carrying papers about alleged human rights and other abuses of her Uighur people by the Chinese.
The 8 million Uighurs are Muslims from the Xinjiang autonomous region of northwestern China. They are ethnically related to Central Asians, not to the Chinese.
Kadeer, 58, spent 5 years of an 8-year prison sentence before being released in March, ostensibly on medical grounds. Her release was announced minutes after the State Department had said it would not introduce a resolution at the Human Rights Commission in Geneva that would denounce China's rights record.
There has been no word from the Chinese government about the latest reported incident.
A State Department official, who refused to speak for attribution, said: "We are aware of such reports and have raised our concerns with the Chinese both here in Washington and in Beijing."
Rouzi, Kadeer's daughter, said the family doesn't know why police ransacked the offices of Kadeer's company, Akida, and arrested the workers. The conglomerate, based in Urumqi, includes real estate firms, stocks brokerages, import-export companies and restaurants.
"They haven't given us any official papers," she said. "Even when they searched the company headquarters, there was no warrant and so no word on why."
She said police at first arrested five people, including Ahmatchan Matilai, the best friend of her 32-year-old brother, Ablikim Abudureyim. Matilai was released after a couple of hours, again without explanation, she said.
The human rights group Amnesty International USA has been deeply involved with Kadeer's case. The organization said Kadeer was told three days before her release in March that she must avoid contact with Uighurs abroad and keep quiet about conditions in Xinjiang.
T. Kumar, who handles affairs of the organization's Asia-Pacific region, said her businesses were threatened if she did not follow those ground rules.
Kadeer's husband, who lives in the US, is an activist for the Uighurs. For years, Kadeer was presented as a model for China's poor Muslim women and even was named a delegate to the UN 1995 Women's Conference in Beijing.
She said in the March interview that she assumed her growing prominence among the Uighurs made the Chinese authorities uneasy about her activities, which included a charity to help Muslim women start businesses.