BEIJING - China chastised Japan on Monday for allowing a visit by an exiled Uighur activist who Beijing condemns as a separatist, opening a small crack of discord with Japan's recently elected government.
Rebiya Kadeer, president of the World Uyghur Congress, gestures during a news conference over the situation of the Uyghurs at the European Parliament in Brussels September 1, 2009. (REUTERS/Sebastien Pirlet/Files)
The exiled Rebiya Kadeer will visit Japan from Tuesday, a trip that has irked China, which has accused her of instigating ethnic riots that left about 200 people dead in early July. She has repeatedly denied those claims.
Kadeer, a former businesswoman, now leads the World Uighur Congress, which demands self-rule for the region in far west China. She last visited Japan in July, but this week's trip will be her first since Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who has vowed to deepen ties with Beijing, took office last month.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said his government has raised its objections with Japan.
But in his comments at a news conference in Beijing, Ma did not directly criticise Hatoyama, which suggests that China does not want the dispute to fester.
"Some forces in Japan have planned for Kadeer to go to Japan to engage in separatist activities aimed at China," Ma said.
"The Japanese side has ignored China's staunch objections and allowed Rebiya to enter, and China expresses its strong dissatisfaction."
China has generally welcomed Hatoyama's arrival in power and his promises to improve long icy ties with Beijing. But Chinese analysts have said any Japanese criticism of their government's human rights policies and religious controls could become a sore-point in relations.
Along with Tibet, Xinjiang is one of the most restive and politically sensitive regions in China. In both regions the government has sought to maintain its grip by controlling religious and cultural life while promising economic growth and prosperity.(Reporting by Emma Graham-Harrison and Liu Zhen; Writing by Chris Buckley; Editing by Bill Tarrant)