July 16, 2009 / 9:01 AM / 10 years ago

China presses Australia film fest to drop Uighurs film

BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Thursday pressed Australia’s largest film festival to drop a documentary about restive ethnic Uighurs as the two countries remained embroiled in a separate row about commercial spying.

Chinese consular staff contacted organizers of the Melbourne International Film Festival last week urging them to dump a film about exiled Uighur businesswoman Rebiya Kadeer, blamed by Beijing for instigating this month’s ethnic riots in Xinjiang.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said on Thursday Kadeer should not be allowed to spread her “splittist” views.

“Everyone knows what kind of person Rebiya is. We resolutely oppose any foreign country providing a platform for her anti-Chinese, splittist activities,” he told a news conference.

“The 10 Conditions of Love” tells of Kadeer’s relationship with activist husband Sidik Rouzi and the fallout on her 11 children of her push for more autonomy for China’s 10 million mainly Muslim Uighurs. Three of her children have been jailed.

China accuses Kadeer’s World Uighur Congress of being a front for extremist militants pushing for a separate East Turkistan homeland. She was arrested in 1999 and found guilty of “providing secret information to foreigners.”

Uighurs attacked Han Chinese in Urumqi on July 5 after police tried to break up a protest against fatal attacks on Uighur workers at a factory in south China. Han Chinese in Urumqi launched revenge attacks later in the week.

The official death toll now stands at 192, most of whom were Han Chinese who form the majority of China’s 1.3 billion population. Almost all the others were Uighurs, native to Xinjiang and culturally tied to Central Asia and Turkey.

China’s embassies and consular staff are keeping a low profile in Australia since the detention last week by Chinese security officials of four staff working for Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto, related to accusations of commercial spying.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie

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