China’s ambassador to Japan yesterday slammed a planned Tokyo visit by Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer.
China says Kadeer, a once successful businesswoman in China but now leader of exile group the World Uyghur Congress, planned an outbreak of violence in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region earlier this month in which nearly 200 people died.
She denies the claim.
“How would the people of Japan feel if a violent crime occurs in Japan and its mastermind is invited by a third country?” Japan’s Kyodo news agency quoted ambassador Cui Tiankai (崔天凱) as saying in a group interview.
“The matter can be considered easily when you think from the other person’s viewpoint ... she is a criminal,” he said.
International trips by exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama are routinely criticized by Beijing, particularly when he has been received by prominent figures.
But China has rarely commented on Kadeer’s travels before.
She is scheduled to give a news conference tomorrow and speak at a symposium.
Cui also warned that the visit should not be allowed to damage a working relationship with China which has improved recently, after years of diplomatic spats over wartime history.
“We must prevent important matters that should be worked on together from being disturbed by a criminal or attention to our common interests from being diverted,” Kyodo quoted him as saying.
Meanwhile, the premiere of a documentary about Kadeer that Chinese officials tried to have pulled from Australia’s biggest film festival was a sell-out success, organizers said yesterday.
The Melbourne International Film Festival called in security guards for Sunday night’s premiere of Ten Conditions of Love fearing trouble amid Chinese anger over the film.
Festival director Richard Moore has accused Chinese officials of trying to bully him into pulling the documentary, while Chinese directors have withdrawn their films in protest and hackers have attacked the festival Web site.
Event spokeswoman Louise Heseltine said the Web site remained partially disabled yesterday because of the cyber-attacks, in which hackers replaced information with the Chinese flag and left anti-Kadeer slogans.
But she said the screening at a city center cinema was peaceful and the audience response was positive.
The Australian film-maker behind the documentary, Jeff Daniels, said he was surprised at the strength of the campaign against his film.
“I understood that the Chinese government certainly didn’t want the film to be screened but I never thought people would put that much pressure on the festival,” he told Sky News.
Daniels, who will host Kadeer when the film next screens in Melbourne on Aug. 8, said he was pleased Sunday’s premiere was peaceful.
“I know emotions are running high at the moment. It’s a very dark time for the Uighurs in China and there are a lot of angry people from China on both sides,” he said. “So I’m very happy that it went peacefully, as a documentary should, and people were able to see different sides of the story.”