19 August 2009

China still angry about Uighur Australia visa grant

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Relations between China and Australia have continued to become strained following the granting of an Australian visa to the Uighur leader, Rebiya Kadeer.

Recently China cancelled a ministerial visit to Australia in protest against a recent visit from the Uighur leader, Rebiya Kadeer. Ms Kadeer's visit to the country was to attend to the Melbourne Film Festival where a documentary on her life was being screened.

Beijing is angry that the Australian Government granted an Australian visa to Ms Kadeer, an ethnic Uighur Muslim who lives in the United States.

The Australian foreign affairs ministry has confirmed the Kadeer controversy lay behind the cancellation of a visit.

Chinese officials lobbied hard to stop a film being shown about the Uighur leader's life at the Melbourne International Film Festival, and then tried to prevent her from addressing the National Press Club in Canberra.

Only recently it emerged that Beijing even went as far as to cancel a ministerial visit to Australia, where the Chinese vice foreign minister was supposed to attend a summit earlier in the month of Pacific nation leaders.

The Australian foreign affairs department has confirmed that it was informed via diplomatic channels that the minister would be unable to attend the summit and that the Chinese delegation would be led instead by a junior envoy.

It said the move came in protest at the decision to grant an Australian visa to Rebiya Kadeer and that the Australian Government regretted that China felt obliged to take these steps.

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