China Criticizes Japan Over Visit by Uighur Leader (Update1)

By Stuart Biggs

July 28 (Bloomberg) — China criticized Japan for allowing exiled Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer, accused of instigating this month’s ethnic riots in Xinjiang province, to visit Tokyo.

“We are very dissatisfied with the Japanese government’s decision to let Rebiya carry out her separatist activities in Japan, disregarding China’s serious objections,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement yesterday.

Japan’s position is that Kadeer was invited by private citizens and not by the government, Takeshi Akamatsu, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said today.

China’s government blames Kadeer, head of the Washington- based World Uighur Congress, for clashes between ethnic Uighurs and Han Chinese that left almost 200 people dead in Urumqi, capital of China’s westernmost Xinjiang province. Kadeer denies the claim.

Kadeer started a five-day visit to Japan today and plans to meet with officials from the country’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party to seek support for Uighurs, Agence France-Presse reported. She plans to speak to the media tomorrow, it said.

China expressed its views on Kadeer’s visit to the Japanese government through its embassy on July 23, Akamatsu said in a telephone interview.

Ties With China

“We don’t think this will affect Japan-China bilateral relations, that’s what we explained to the Chinese side,” he said, adding that even if Kadeer meets with ruling party lawmakers, it wouldn’t constitute an official meeting.

Kadeer, 62, a mother of 11 children, was once ranked as China’s 34th-richest person with a fortune of $25 million, according to the Shanghai-based Hurun Report, and was on China’s top political body for people who aren’t members of the Communist Party.

She spent six years in prison after criticizing the government over its policies in Xinjiang. Under pressure from the Bush administration, China released Kadeer in 2005 and she moved to Washington, heading the organization of exiled Uighurs.

Muslim Uighurs, who make up less than half of Xinjiang’s population of 20 million, complain of discrimination by the Han, China’s dominant ethnic group, and unfair division of the region’s resources. The landlocked region, about three times the size of France, has China’s second-highest oil and natural gas reserves and was its biggest cotton producer.

The Han make up more than 90 percent of China’s 1.3 billion people.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Biggs in Tokyo at sbiggs3@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: July 28, 2009 03:49 EDT

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