Minister of the Interior Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) yesterday defended his decision to bar exiled Uighur rights activist Rebiya Kadeer from visiting Taiwan, despite widespread criticism of the ban.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators lashed out at the minister as he made his first appearance before the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee.
Jiang said last month that Kadeer, president of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC), should not be allowed into the country since she has “close relations to a terrorist group.”
He also accused WUC secretary-general Dolkun Isa of involvement in terrorist activities that led Interpol to issue a “red notice” for him.
Jiang’s remarks were criticized by opposition lawmakers, civic groups, Kadeer and Isa.
Kadeer said that she would file a lawsuit against the government unless it apologized for the terrorist remark.
DPP Legislator Kao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) asked Jiang if he had changed his mind about freedom and human rights since becoming a minister, given that he had a reputation as a liberal when he was a professor of political science at National Taiwan University.
“You’ve lost the spirit of a liberal professor and have become a liar,” Kao said.
Jiang protested, saying he respected a lawmaker’s right to question his decision, “but you cannot label a minister with such a humiliating word, that’s unacceptable.”
He denied abandoning his liberal beliefs, but defended his decision.
“Interpol has issued a red notice for the WUC secretary-general, so in our national interest we would of course reject the entry of Kadeer, who is the WUC head,” Jiang said.
His response did not convince DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津), who questioned whether the government was following China’s agenda because it was Beijing that asked Interpol to issue the notice.
“There are other countries that have rejected Isa’s entry — China, Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan — but these countries are all close allies of China and are considered authoritarian to some extent,” Yeh said. “Why are we following their standards?”
If Kadeer and Isa had close connections to terrorist groups, “why would the US grant political asylum to Kadeer and Germany grant Isa citizenship?” Yeh said.
“Every country has different national interests to defend, and it’s not unusual that someone is allowed into one country, but not another,” Jiang said.
“China, Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan made their decisions in defense of their national interests too,” he said.
In related news, a group of Japanese academics said yesterday that Kadeer would visit Japan this month to deliver a series of speeches about human rights in China.
They said they had invited her to speak about the lives of ethnic minorities and women in China, but she would not be involved in any political activities during her trip.
Kadeer is scheduled to arrive on Oct. 20 for a 10-days visit, said Seiji Nishihara, an economics professor at the International University of Kagoshima.
“We don’t see her as a terrorist as the Chinese authorities argue, and as part of our academic activities we want our students to watch and listen for themselves what’s happening in the world, through her speeches,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP
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