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After Moore refused, all seven Chinese language films on the MIFF program were withdrawn from the festival (including films from Hong Kong and Taiwan), a Hong Kong-based sponsor pulled out due to resultant contractual breaches, and Chinese hackers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.
- Simon Lauder, ‘China “wants to bury” Australian Uighur doco’, ABC News, 15 July 2009.
- Mary Gearin, ‘China demands film festival dump Uighur documentary’, The 7.30 Report, 15 July 2009.
- Ben Child, ‘Rebiya Kadeer row engulfs Melbourne film festival’, The Guardian, 15 July 2009.
- Anne Davies, ‘Uighur leader will take her case to Canberra’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 18 July 2009.
- Xinhua, ‘Chinese films withdrawn from Melbourne festival over Kadeer documentary’, Xinhua News, 22 July 2009.
- Mary-Anne Toy, ‘Tit for tat: Chinese films pulled from festival’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 July 2009.
- Mary-Ann Toy, ‘Chinese hack into film festival site’, The Age, 26 July 2009.
- BBC, ‘Chinese hack film festival site’, BBC News, 26 July 2009.
- AFP, ‘Uighur premiere a sell-out in Australia’, AFP, 27 July 2009.
- Richard Brody, ‘We are all Melbournian’, The New Yorker, 27 July 2009.
- Rowan Callick, ‘Uighur Rebiya Kadeer gets visa despite China protest’, The Australian, 31 July 2009.
- Mark Russel, ‘Hackers hit film festival’, The Age, 2 August 2009.
- Jeremy Goldkorn, ‘Not everyone is Melburnian’, The Guardian, 3 August 2009.
- Natalie Marshall, ‘‘We’re all Melburnians’: Uighur leader controversy goes global’, The Age, 5 August 2009.
- Natalie Marshall, ‘China must reveal truth, says Uighur leader’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 August 2009.
- Greg Sheridan, ‘Courage of her convictions’, The Australian, 8 August 2009.
- Dan Levin, ‘Film festival in the cross hairs’, The New York Times, 9 August 2009.
- Xinhua, ‘Rebiya Kadeer lies again’, Xinhua News, 11 August 2009.
- Editorial, ‘Australia’s permission for Rebiya’s visit chills bilateral ties’, People’s Daily Online, 11 August 2009.
- Mark Dodd, ‘Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer slams ‘authoritarian’ China’, The Australian, 11 August 2009.
- Greg Sheridan, ‘Diplomats must pull their heads in’, The Australian, 11 August 2009.
- Nic MacBean, ‘Kadeer to China: Thanks for the publicity’, ABC News, 12 August 2009.
- Greg Sheridan, ‘Uighurs must fight for rights within China’, The Australian, 13 August 2009.
- Xinhua, ‘Who provide stage for Rebiya Kadeer?’, China.org.cn, 13 August 2009.
- Xinhua, ‘Commentary: Australian editor’s anti-China rant violates press ethics’, Xinhua News, 15 August 2009.
- Greg Sheridan and Michael Sainsbury, ‘Beijing bites back over Kadeer visa and iron ore prices’, The Australian, 18 August 2009.
- Editorial, ‘Australia’s Choice’, China Daily, 19 August 2009.
- Zhang Xin and Peng Kuang, ‘Australian moves sour relations’, China Daily, 19 August 2009.
- Rowan Callick, ‘Tale of final straws and camel backs’, The Australian, 19 August 2009.
- Editorial, ‘China needs Australia more than we need them’, Crikey, 20 August 2009.
- Luke Buckmaster, ‘The 10 Conditions of Love film review: undernourishing non-fiction’, Crikey, 20 August 2009.
- Sabra Lane, ‘Smith attacks Opposition over China relations’, ABC News, 21 August 2009.
- Greg Sheridan, ‘Asian democracy and Australia: No gold pass to a trouble-free future’, The Asialink Essays, no. 6, August 2009.
- Rowan Callick and Sid Maher, ‘Uighur film ‘shelved’ in ABC China push’, The Australian, 9 February 2010.
- Mark Colvin, ‘Uyghur leader back in Australia’, ABC Radio, 7 October 2011.
- Rowan Callick, ‘Controversial biopic on Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer screens, but Asia misses out’, The Australian, 11 June 2012.
For more articles, see CIW’s Media Reports 2009: Australia & China.