Activist keen to go head to head with protesters

By Lincoln Tan

Rebiya Kadeer was greeted at Auckland Airport yesterday by her host, Green MP Keith Locke (rear). Photo / Richard Robinson
Rebiya Kadeer was greeted at Auckland Airport yesterday by her host, Green MP Keith Locke (rear). Photo / Richard Robinson

Exiled Chinese Muslim leader Rebiya Kadeer says she wants to "meet with the enemy" during her New Zealand visit.

"Change can only happen when you change the hearts and minds of those who oppose you," she said as she arrived in Auckland yesterday for a four-day visit.

Chinese students plan protests at her two meetings today at the University of Auckland and the Pioneer Women and Ellen Melville Hall in High St, central Auckland, and Ms Kadeer says "bring it on".

The exiled United States-based head of the World Uighur Congress also met the Auckland-based Taiwanese community last night, two weeks after being banned from Taiwan.

"Little is achieved when you preach to the converted, but a lot is done when you change the views of those who disagree with you most," Ms Kadeer said.

Speaking in a mix of Mandarin and her Uighur dialect, she said she planned to sue the Taiwanese Government for linking her organisation to terrorism and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which is listed as a terrorist organisation in the United States.

"Most Taiwanese do not share the views of its government to ban me, and many Chinese who oppose what I say do so because they have been brainwashed by the China government.

"I am looking forward to engaging with them."

Ms Kadeer said despite the furore that sparked diplomatic ructions between Beijing and Australia when she visited Melbourne in August, only five Chinese protesters confronted her at the Melbourne International Film Festival, where she was a guest.

China tried to stop Maori TV from screening a Kadeer biopic last month, and despite talks among some Chinese students about staging a protest at the airport yesterday, no one turned up.

"If the Chinese here learn that it is okay to protest peacefully, then they would have learned a valuable lesson about living in a democracy," Ms Kadeer said.

Meanwhile, following "internal messages of protest" by university staff on the administration's stopping Ms Kadeer from holding a public meeting on campus, law professor David Williams has invited her to speak at the law faculty at midday instead.

"I hope that university security personnel will not be called upon to prevent the exercise of free speech," Professor Williams said. "Rebiya Kadeer is the sort of person whose voice needs to be listened to. Her voice should not be silenced in a university."

Ms Kadeer was once a successful businesswoman in the northwest Xinjiang region but spent six years in jail after speaking out against Beijing.

China regards her as a criminal who orchestrated the ethnic violence in Xinjiang in July that left nearly 200 dead.

It is opposed to countries providing her with a platform to engage in anti-China separatist activities, a charge she rejects.

Her visit, as a guest of the Green Party, will include meetings with human rights groups, a visit to Parliament and meetings with MPs.

* Today's venues

Noon: University of Auckland law faculty, Northey Lecture Theatre, 9 Eden Crescent.

7.30pm: Pioneer Women and Ellen Melville Hall, corner High St and Freyberg Place.

- NZ Herald

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