Rebiya Kadeer Incident

Rebiya Kadeer is an ethnic Uyghur and President of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC). She was previously a millionaire businesswoman in China before being imprisoned and released into US protection in 2005. China accuses Kadeer of masterminding the explosive Han-Uyghur ethnic riots in Urumqi in July 2009, which killed 197 Han and Uyghurs by official counts.

Later in 2009, the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) programed the première of the local filmmaker Jeff Daniel’s documentary about Kadeer’s life, The 10 Conditions of Love. The MIFF Executive Director, Richard Moore, subsequently received a request from the Chinese Consulate in Melbourne to withdraw the film and cancel Kadeer’s MIFF invitation.

After Moore refused, all seven Chinese language films on the MIFF program were withdrawn from the festival (including films from Hong Kong and Taiwan), a Hong Kong-based sponsor pulled out due to resultant contractual breaches, and Chinese hackers spammed and sabotaged the festival website with anti-Kadeer slogans.

Despite warnings against allowing Kadeer’s visit made by then-Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi 杨洁篪, the then Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith granted Kadeer a visa.

Kadeer spent a week in Australia and spoke as planned at the MIFF and also at the National Press Club in Canberra, which also refused a request from the Chinese Embassy to cancel the event. The series of attempted interventions in Kadeer’s visit by the Chinese authorities led to extensive (and predominately sympathetic) coverage of Kadeer and her Uyghur cause in the Australian media.

China retaliated against Australia by cancelling an official visit by then vice-minister for foreign affairs He Yafei 何亚非 to Cairns for the Pacific Islands Forum. Instead, China dispatched a more junior desk officer, Wang Yongqiu 王永秋.

Official Chinese media outlets also published many articles criticising Australia’s approach to the bilateral relationship and accused the Australian media of bias towards Kadeer, singling out The Australian’s Foreign Editor Greg Sheridan for special censure. There was also considerable political debate between the major Australian parties.

The incident came on the heels of the 2009 Defence White Paper [link to topic page] and the Stern Hu incident [link to topic page], contributing to the 2009 annus horribilis in Australia–China relations.

Kadeer has since returned to Australia without diplomatic incident, but attracting far less media coverage.


July 2009

August 2009

February 2010

October 2011

June 2012

For more articles, see CIW’s Media Reports 2009: Australia & China.