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China Blasts Japan Over Exiled Uighur Leader's Visit


China is criticizing Japan's government for allowing exiled Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer to visit this week. Beijing alleges Kadeer, who now heads the U.S.-based World Uighur Congress, helped plan an outbreak of violence in Xinjiang earlier this month.

Even before Rebiya Kadeer arrived in Tokyo, China's Foreign Ministry issued a statement voicing its strong dissatisfaction with the visit.

China's ambassador in Japan, Cui Tiankai, was even more blunt. Tuesday's edition of the official China Daily newspaper says Cui called Kadeer a criminal.

Beijing's criticisms are likely to continue even after Kadeer's arrival. While in Tokyo, Kadeer is scheduled to give a news conference and speak at a symposium.

China often tries to use its diplomatic muscle to block its critics, such as the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, from meeting with foreign leaders and influential politicians.

Japanese officials in the past have not met with the Dalai Lama on its visits to the country. They are not likely to change that practice for Kadeer, as they are calling her trip a private visit.

But as Joseph Cheng, a political science professor at the City University of Hong Kong points out, it was difficult for Tokyo to refuse entry for Kadeer.

"The governing Liberal Democratic Party is facing a very difficult situation in the coming general elections and that probably explains why the government rejects the Chinese government's request to deny Rebiya Kadeer entry into Japan," said Cheng.

China alleges that Kadeer and her organization stoked the ethnic violence in Xinjiang earlier this month. The government says nearly 200 people died in the violence, but Uighur activists say the number is higher, and includes more Uighurs than Beijing says. Kadeer denies Beijing's accusations.

Two weeks ago, the Chinese government protested to the Melbourne International Film Festival over the inclusion of a documentary on Kadeer. Three Chinese films have withdrawn from the festival to protest her planned attendance at the event next month.

Cheng says such behavior is all part of the Chinese government's inability to admit that the unrest highlight problems with its policies toward ethnic minorities.

"Instead of engaging in some self-reflection and reviews, they tend to react rather strongly and claim that China has been correct all the time and that this is a type of conspiracy on the part of terrorists and separatists and religious extremists and so on, and they tend to blame, put the blame on these antagonistic forces," he added.

Muslim Uighurs make up less than half of Xinjiang's population of 20 million in the oil-rich region on China's western border. They complain of discrimination by the Han, China's dominant ethnic group, and unfair division of the region's resources.


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