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China Demands Australian Film Festival Dump Uighur Documentary


Organizers of one of Australia's most prestigious film festivals say the Chinese government has demanded that it reject a controversial documentary about ethnic Uighurs. Beijing's dismay at the film about exiled Uighur businesswoman Rebiya Kadeer follows violent ethnic disturbances in China's Xinjiang region.

China blames Rebiya Kadeer for instigating this month's ethnic riots in Xinjiang.

Chinese consular staff in Australia contacted organizers of the Melbourne International Film Festival urging them to dump a film about the exiled businesswoman. She is a strident campaigner for the rights of China's mainly Muslim Uighurs, who have close cultural ties to Central Asia and Turkey.

She denies having any role in the unrest and says she opposes violence.

The documentary looks at Kadeer's relationship with her family and the effect her political activism has had on her 11 children, three of whom have been jailed.

Beijing accuses Kadeer's World Uighur Congress of being a front for extremists pushing for a separate East Turkistan homeland in western China. She was arrested in 1999 and found guilty of "providing secret information to foreigners". After six years in prison she was allowed to go into exile in the United States.

Beijing is angry that the movie The 10 Conditions of Love is to receive its premiere early next month in Melbourne.

Film festival director Richard Moore says he was pressured by a Chinese diplomat over the film.

"I got a call from a fairly strident Miss Chen at the Chinese consulate here in Melbourne who proceeded to tell me that I should a) withdraw the film from the festival and b) that I had to justify our action including the film in the festival program," said Moore.

Organizers say they have no intention of bowing to China's demands, and the film will play as scheduled.

Ethnic unrest broke out on July 5, after police tried to break up a protest by Uighurs in Xinjiang. The government says more than 180 people, most of them Han Chinese, died in the violence, but Uighurs say many more Uighurs died.

The Uighurs complain that Beijing represses their religious practices, and discriminates against them. But members of China's Han majority say minority groups get special benefits - such as preferential university places and the right to have more than one child.

Canberra and Beijing are still embroiled in a diplomatic standoff over China's arrest of a senior Australian Rio Tinto mining executive accused of industrial espionage during negotiations of iron ore prices.

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