11 August 2009

Exiled leader praises country for Australia visa

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Rebiya Kadeer, the exiled leader of China's Muslim Uighurs, praised Australia as a true democracy and thanked the Federal Government for not submitting to Beijing's demands.

The Chinese Government had demanded that the Australia Government not issue Ms Kadeer with an Australia visa and prevent her visit to the country for the Melbourne Film Festival where her film was being screened.

Ms Kadeer also expressed a keen wish to meet Kevin Rudd and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith on her next visit.

Ms Kadeer was speaking at the National Press Club, an appearance the Chinese Embassy also tried to stop it was reported in The Australian newspaper today.

Ms Kadeer accused Beijing of trying to impose its "authoritarian will" on democratic countries from raising human rights concerns.

"Regarding the prime minister and foreign minister, of course I would be happy to meet with them.

"I was given a visa by the Australian Government in spite of enormous pressure from the Chinese authorities to prevent that from happening.

"So, I hope there will be opportunities in the future to meet with both of them,'' she said.

Beijing accuses Ms Kadeer of being a terrorist and criminal responsible for instigating ethnic violence last month in her homeland in western Xianjiang that claimed at least 197 lives.

Despite opposition from Beijing to the visit the 62-year-old head of the World Uighur Congress arrived last week to attend a documentary about her life showing at the Melbourne International Film Festival.

Chinese computer hackers angered at the visit responded by temporarily closing down the festival booking site.

A senior Chinese Embassy official then tried to prevent her appearance at the NPC.

"Mao Zedong said that political power comes from the barrel of a gun, but I say that political reform comes from the table of peaceful negotiation.

"However, the promise of dialogue between the Chinese Government and the Uighur people based on the principles of trust and equality looks ever more distant,'' she said.

Ms Kadeer, who now lives in Washington, spent six years in prison before going into exile in 2005 and assuming the leadership of the Uighur people.

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