China is to pressure Maori Television to screen its own, government-produced film on riots in a Muslim-majority province instead of an independent documentary on an exiled leader.
Maori TV is to screen 10 Conditions of Love, an Australian film about the struggle of Muslim Uighur people in Xinjiang, the scene of recent ethnic riots, and their figurehead, Rebiya Kadeer.
Beijing, however, has produced its own documentary, Xinjiang Urumqi July 5 Riot: Truth and has asked Maori TV to screen it instead.
In the Chinese-produced film, Kadeer is branded a terrorist and accused of instigating and orchestrating the ethnic riots in the northwestern Xinjiang region last month that left at least 197 people dead.
"The film shows what kind of a person Rebiya Kadeer actually is," a spokeswoman for the Chinese Embassy in Wellington said. She would not say if a formal complaint had been laid with the New Zealand Government, but added: "We are firmly opposed to any foreign countries providing a platform for her anti-China separatist activities."
China's New Zealand representatives will meet Maori TV tomorrow.
Sonya Haggie, of Maori TV, said the meeting would not change the station's plan to screen the documentary, which centres around Ms Kadeer and husband Sidik Rouzi's struggle for autonomy and religious freedom for the mostly Muslim Uighurs in their homeland, on September 1. Ms Kadeer is the head of the World Uighur Congress, which represents the Uighur community in exile. She lives in the US.
Last month, Beijing summoned the Australian ambassador to protest at the decision to grant Mr Kadeer a visa to attend the Melbourne Film Festival, where 10 Conditions of Love was shown.
Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith reiterated during Ms Kadeer's visit that Canberra recognised Chinese sovereignty over Xinjiang.
Pacific Culture and Arts Exchange chairman Jim He says he has been informed that a China Film Festival in Australia, scheduled for October, has been axed by the China Film Bureau as a result of Ms Kadeer's visit.
Mr He, who is the organiser for the NZ China Film Festival, says he hopes that Maori TV's decision to screen the film here will not jeopardise the festival in Auckland, which is scheduled to run from October 15 to November 13.
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