China protests Kadeer visit

SYDNEY: China has complained to Australia over a visit by exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer, officials said Wednesday, reigniting tensions just weeks after a row over a detained mining executive.

Australia's foreign affairs department said the Chinese embassy had made "representations" over next week's trip by Kadeer, whose current visit to Japan has also angered Beijing.

"The matter has been discussed several times, both in Canberra and Beijing," an official told AFP, declining to give further details.

Kadeer, head of the US-based World Uighur Congress, is accused by China of inciting this month's ethnic clashes in its western Xinjiang region that left more than 190 people dead.

The latest disagreement with Australia follows curt exchanges over China's arrest of Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu on spying charges, which threatened relations between the key trading partners.

Kadeer is due to attend the August 8 launch in Melbourne of controversial documentary "10 Conditions of Love," which depicts her life story, and which prompted Chinese attempts to have it pulled from the city's film festival.

The mother-of-11 was once a successful businesswoman in Xinjiang but spent six years in a Chinese jail and has become a figurehead for the Uighur movement since her release in 2005.

On Wednesday, Kadeer said nearly 10,000 people "disappeared in one night" during recent unrest in the Xinjiang city of Urumqi, comments likely to further anger Beijing.

"Close to 10,000 people in Urumqi disappeared in one night. Where did those people go?" she said through a translator in Tokyo. "If they died, where did they go?"

Beijing has expressed strong dissatisfaction over the 62-year-old's visit to Japan, with the Chinese ambassador reportedly describing her as a "criminal."

Kadeer is also expected to meet members of Australia's 2,000-strong Uighur community during her visit here, although her exact itinerary was not immediately clear.

Relations with China soured this month after Hu's arrest in Shanghai, which prompted a pointed warning from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that economic interests were at stake.

A screening of "10 Conditions of Love," by Australian film-maker Jeff Daniels, passed off peacefully under heavy security in Melbourne this week.