Exiled Uighur leader visits Japan, angering Beijing



TOKYO, Kyoko Hasegawa - The exiled leader of China's Uighur minority arrived in Japan Tuesday for a visit that has angered Beijing, which accuses her of masterminding recent ethnic violence in the country's remote northwest.
Rebiya Kadeer, 62, the US-based head of the World Uighur Congress, said at the airport she would use her visit to call for support for the mainly Muslim minority, following deadly clashes this month in the Xinjiang region.



Exiled Uighur leader visits Japan, angering Beijing
"My aim in visiting Japan is for the Japanese people to understand how terribly our people are being massacred and repressed," Kadeer said, according to a translation given to AFP by Ilham Mahmut of the Japan Uighur Association.
"I hope Japan's government and people will help us escape these severe conditions. In future, I hope many other countries will also approve my visits so that I can work on promoting people's understanding about the Uighurs."
The mother of 11 and grandmother, wearing a traditional Uighur hat, was greeted at Tokyo's Narita airport by a handful of her Japanese supporters waving flags and a sign that read "Free the Uighurs."
China's foreign ministry on Monday expressed "strong dissatisfaction" about Japan's decision to allow entry to Kadeer, who spent around six years in a Chinese prison before being released under US pressure in 2005.
"Ignoring China's repeated and solemn representations, the Japanese government persisted in allowing Rebiya (Kadeer) to engage in anti-China separatist activities," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.
Kadeer's supporters said Tuesday she had cut her planned five-day trip short to three days so she can return to Washington to join a closed-door committee session on foreign policy in the US Congress on Friday.
She was due to hold a press conference in Tokyo on Wednesday.
Her supporters also said she was due to meet members of Prime Minister Taro Aso's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, although an official said he was unaware of any planned official contact.
Any official contact between Kadeer and Japan's ruling party would be certain to anger China, which has accused her of orchestrating the clashes in Urumqi between Uighurs and Han Chinese that left more than 190 people dead.
She denies the allegation, and has said the death toll could be in the thousands, and that she had heard accounts of "mob killings" across Xinjiang.
China's ambassador to Japan, Cui Tiankai, warned that relations between the two countries could be damaged if Tokyo allowed Kadeer to visit.
"She is a criminal," he was quoted as saying by Kyodo News. "How would the people of Japan feel if a violent crime occurred in Japan and its mastermind is invited by a third country?"
Japan and China, major trading partners, have worked in recent years to improve ties often strained by rows over history and territorial disputes.
Japanese diplomats earlier this month urged China to protect the human rights of Uighurs after days of bloody unrest in the region.
Before her arrest, Kadeer was a successful entrepreneur and ran the group the 1,000 Families Mothers' Project which helped Uighur women start businesses.
But after her Uighur husband and former political prisoner Sidik Rouzi fled China for the United States in 1996, Beijing kept a close watch on her.
She was detained in 1999 on her way to meet visiting US congressional researchers and jailed on charges of threatening national security. Authorities released her six years later, and she now lives outside Washington.
She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 and is the subject of a documentary called "Ten Conditions of Love" which premiered at the Melbourne International Film Festival on Sunday.
Festival director Richard Moore accused Chinese officials of trying to bully him into pulling the documentary, while Chinese directors withdrew their films in protest and hackers attacked the festival website.
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Wednesday, July 29th 2009
Kyoko Hasegawa
           


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