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Taiwan Denies Visit by Exiled Uigher Leader

  • Thibault Worth

Taiwan Denies Visit by Exiled Uigher Leader

Taiwan Denies Visit by Exiled Uigher Leader

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The Taiwan government will not allow Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer to visit the island later this year. China calls Kadeer a terrorist and had opposed the visit.

On Friday, Taiwan's Interior Minister Chiang Yih-hwa said the government would not allow the visit before Rebiya Kadeer had even submitted her visa application.

Chiang says if a foreigner's visit is considered possibly damaging to Taiwan's interests, public safety, or public order, the National Immigration Agency has the right to deny his or her entry.

Freddie Lin, the lead vocalist for the popular Taiwan rock band, had invited Kadeer. Lin advocates Taiwan independence and has close relations to the island's opposition Democratic Progressive Party. Kadeer accepted the invitation this week, and indicated her desire to visit in December.

Kadeer leads the exiled World Uighur Congress and lives in Washington. Beijing calls her a terrorist and has accused her of plotting the July riots that shook China's Xinjiang Province, and led to 200 deaths.

Uighurs are a mostly Muslim group ethnically close to Central Asian communities. They have long complained of discrimination by the Beijing government, and by Han Chinese who have moved into Xinjiang, the traditional Uighur homeland, over the past several decades. Beijing denies discriminating against its minority groups, and says Kadeer and other Uighur dissidents are separatists.

The controversy follows the screening of a documentary about Kadeer's life in the southern Taiwanese city, Kaoshiung. Under Chinese pressure, the film, called The 10 Conditions of Love, was pulled from the coming Kaohsiung Film Festival. Instead, the film was shown this week at the Kaohsiung Film Archive.

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou has worked to improve relations with China, which claims the self-ruled island as its territory. Beijing has vowed to return the island to its rule, by force if Taipei's government takes steps toward declaring formal independence.

The Beijing government was angered earlier this month with the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, visited Taiwan to pray for victims of a typhoon. China also considers him a separatist leader.

While the decision to bar Kadeer may please Beijing, it is likely to anger opposition politicians, many of whom want to see Taiwan declare independence.

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