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China summons Aussie ambassador over Uighur visit

world Updated: Aug 01, 2009 11:29 IST

China summoned the Australian ambassador to protest a proposed visit to his country by an exiled Uighur leader whom Beijing accuses of instigating recent ethnic riots that killed nearly 200 people, the Foreign Ministry said Saturday.

Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Lijun called the meeting with Geoff Raby because of the trip to Australia next week by US-based Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer, a ministry statement said. China _ one of Australia's most important trading partners, has made repeated requests to the Australian government to refuse her a visa.

"Zhang expressed China's strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to the Australian side on its allowing the visit," the ministry said.

The Chinese government says 197 people died and more than 1,700 were wounded in ethnic violence in early July in China's predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang. Beijing blames Kadeer for fomenting the unrest.

Kadeer, who heads the pro-independence World Uyghur Congress, an overseas group, has denied involvement in the rioting that broke out between Turkic-speaking Uighur residents and Han Chinese _ China's majority ethnic group.

On Wednesday, Kadeer said in Japan that 10,000 Uighur protesters had disappeared after the riots, and she demanded an international investigation.

The 62-year-old former businesswoman from Xinjiang is to attend a screening of a documentary about her life at the Melbourne International Film Festival on Aug. 8, and address the National Press Club in Canberra in a nationally televised speech on Aug. 11. Organizers said Saturday the film festival's Web site had been attacked for a second time. Online ticket sales were unavailable after an "attack of Chinese origin" resulted in all tickets being booked, a posting on the site said.

Late last month, hackers posted a Chinese flag on the festival's Web site in an apparent protest at Kadeer's planned appearance. Festival director Richard Moore said the cyberattacks appeared to be well organized and would hurt the organizers financially because online transactions accounted for some 65 percent of all ticket sales. Tickets were still available at the box office or by phone. "It's a very, very concerted and pointed attack," Moore said. The incident was reported to police, but they were unlikely to be able to do anything about it because the attack appeared to have come from overseas.

Moore said last week an official from the Chinese consulate in Melbourne asked him to pull the documentary about Kadeer. Chinese filmmakers, including Venice Film Festival winner Jia Zhangke, have withdrawn their movies to protest her visit.