Thu, Sep 24, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Ball now in Ma's court on visit by Kadeer

SCREENINGS DPP city councilors called on the Taipei City Government to show the documentary to show its support for free speech and human rights

By Flora Wang and Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTERS, WITH STAFF WRITER

A spokesman for Rebiya Kadeer yesterday confirmed that the exiled Uighur leader had accepted an invitation to visit Taiwan, adding that the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) holds the key to whether the visit will materialize.

Kadeer is more than happy to participate in the Kaohsiung Film Festival and speak to the Taiwanese public, Nury Turkel, president of the Uyghur American Association, told reporters in Washington.

The invitation was issued by the Taiwan Youth Anti-Communist Corps and the youth group Guts United Taiwan following the Kaohsiung City Government’s decision to bring forward the screenings of The 10 Conditions of Love, a documentary about Kadeer, to Tuesday and yesterday rather than during the festival, which starts on Oct. 16.

The city government said the changes were made to address local hotel owners’ concerns that Chinese tourists might boycott the city in protest.

Asked if now was an appropriate time to visit Taiwan, Dilxat Raxit, a Sweden-based spokesman for the World Uighur Congress, which Kadeer heads, told Agence France-Presse that this would depend on Taiwan’s ability to carry out “flexible and active diplomacy.”

Kadeer fights for the rights of the Uighur ethnic minority in China. She has been living in Washington since 2005, after China sent her into exile. Beijing portrays her as a separatist and accused her of plotting the July 5 riots in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, a charge Kadeer has denied.

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊), on her way to watch the documentary yesterday, said the city government had no plans to invite Kadeer.

Chen said it was incorrect for the city’s tourism sector to jump to the conclusion that Chinese tour groups had canceled visits to Taiwan because of the visit by the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama early this month and the screening of the documentary, adding that the tourism businesses should not “put all of their eggs in one basket.”

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) yesterday urged the government to stand up to China.

“The government should protest against Chinese bullying ... boycott of Kaohsiung tourism and [attempts to] interfere with the film festival. There is no reason not to allow Kadeer to visit,” he said.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) spokesman Lee Chien-jung (李建榮) declined to comment on the invitation, saying the matter would be handled by the Mainland Affairs Council.

At a separate setting yesterday, DPP Taipei City councilors called on Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) to show the documentary in the city as a gesture of support for democracy and human rights.

DPP Taipei City Councilor Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) showed part of the one-hour documentary at the city council during a question-and-answer session and said the city government should join Kaohsiung City Government in showing the film.

“Taipei City should also support the screening of the documentary. Refusing to show the film is a denial of free speech and human rights,” Chuang said.

DPP Taipei City Councilor Yen Sheng-kuan (顏聖冠) and Liu Yao-ren (劉耀仁) joined Chuang to press the city government into screening the film, and urged Hau to watch the film as well.

Hau said he welcomed the screening of the film in the city, adding, however, that the government would not sponsor it.

“There are too many films in Taipei City, and it is impossible for the city government to sponsor the showing of every film,” he said.

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