Japan Says Uighur Leader’s Trip Won’t Hurt China Ties (Update1)

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601092&sid=augINh32Vmew#

By Takashi Hirokawa and Sachiko Sakamaki

July 29 (Bloomberg) — Japan’s top government spokesman said the visit to Tokyo by exiled Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer following this month’s ethnic riots in the Chinese province of Xinjiang won’t hurt ties with China.

China criticized the decision to allow Kadeer into Japan over its “serious objections.” Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Takeshi Akamatsu yesterday said that it isn’t a government matter since she was invited by private citizens.

“We understand Rebiya’s visit is in response to a private invitation,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told reporters today in Tokyo. “I don’t think the visit will negatively affect Japan-China relations.”

China’s government blames Kadeer, head of the Washington- based World Uighur Congress, for clashes between ethnic Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese that left almost 200 people dead in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang province. Kadeer, who started a five-day trip to Tokyo yesterday, denies the claim.

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

Uighurs, who make up less than half of Xinjiang’s 20 million people, complain of discrimination 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.

To contact the reporters on this story: Takashi Hirokawa in Tokyo at thirokawa@bloomberg.net; Sachiko Sakamaki in Tokyo at ssakamaki1@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: July 28, 2009 22:51 EDT

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