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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Uighur 'plight similar to Tibet'

August 13, 2009

Rebiya Kadeer speaking at the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra
BBC
August 11, 2009

An exiled leader of China's Uighur ethnic
minority, Rebiya Kadeer, has given a speech in
Australia despite pressure from Chinese diplomats not to.

Speaking at Australia's National Press Club in
Canberra, she compared the plight of her people to the Tibetans.

China says that Mrs Kadeer was behind ethnic
unrest in July in Xinjiang region, home to the
Uighur minority, in which at least 197 people died.

She denies being involved in the worst ethnic unrest in China for decades.

"The situation of Uighur people is very similar
to the situation of the Tibetans," she said.

"We suffer the same suffering, under the same
government, and it has been a long while that the
Uighur people have not been able to raise our
voice in the world as much as our Tibetan brothers did."

Controversial visit

It is a sensitive time in Australian-China
relations, says the BBC's Nick Bryant in Sydney,
after China's arrest of an Australian Rio Tinto
executive on suspicion of corporate espionage.

Diplomats from the Chinese embassy in Canberra
tried to exert pressure on the National Press
Club to cancel Tuesday's speech from Ms Kadeer,
which, like most of the addresses at the club,
was broadcast live on national television.

"You must withdraw the invitation," an official reportedly told the club.

The official then warned that it would be
"regrettable" if relations between China and
Australia were harmed by her appearance.

If the speech did go ahead, then it should not be
broadcast on national television, the official was reported as saying.

Her visit to Australia has been dogged by
controversy. Chinese officials earlier demanded
the withdrawal of a documentary about her life
which was screened at the Melbourne Film Festival.

When organisers refused, the festival's website
came under cyber-attack from hackers in China who
replaced film information with the Chinese flag and anti-Kadeer slogans.

Rebiya Kadeer said of the latest controversy that
China could not impose its authoritarian will on the whole world.

She said that Australia was a democratic country and not a province of China.
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