Exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer says she has always hoped her people could have the kind of freedoms enjoyed by Australians.
9 Aug 2009 - 1:48 PM  UPDATED 24 Feb 2015 - 2:33 PM

Ms Kadeer attended a Q&A session following the world premiere of The 10 Conditions of Love, a film based on her, on Saturday at the Melbourne International Film Festival.

The film documents Ms Kadeer's long campaign to secure independence for the people of East Turkistan.

The territory has been ruled by China for 60 years, reducing the Uighurs to a minority in their homeland.

"I always hoped that my people would enjoy the rights of the people like you in a democratic society," Ms Kadeer said through an interpreter.

But the outspoken advocate was sent to prison for six years as punishment for her criticism of the Chinese government.

Two of Ms Kadeer's sons remain in Chinese jails for her actions.

Religious practices, suppression of the Uighur identity, its language and reduction of the potential Uighur population through China's abortion policy is tightly controlled, she said.

"For any Uighur person who's like me who's not happy with China's rule and China's policies (and) speaks out against the regime is either imprisoned, arrested, in many cases, executed,"
she said.

When asked how she reconciled the imprisonment of her children in jail with her cause, Ms Kadeer said sometimes one family needed to make sacrifices "at a critical juncture in the history of one nation" despite the personal cost.

Chinese government views sought

Documentary director Jeff Daniels said he had sought the views of the Chinese government on the Uighur people for more than two years but continued to hit walls.

"I needed to hear their side of the story - we all deserve to know," Mr Daniels told the audience.

"I feel it very unfortunate that we are not hearing enough from the Chinese government about what is going on in Xinjiang (a province in western China), why there is so much ethnic conflict.

"And I hope that this film allows people to start asking these questions and have them answered."

Uighur links to terrorist network is 'fiction': MP

Federal MP Michael Danby - who helped to bring Ms Kadeer to Australia for the festival - labelled accusations of Uighur links to terrorist network al-Qaeda "a fiction and a manipulation".

Australian Greens leader Bob Brown said the "extraordinary" film would be shown at Parliament House in Canberra.

"What this film will do is empower the people of East Turkistan, the 20 million people, to be heard around the world," he said.

The Chinese government has accused Ms Kadeer of being behind unrest between Uighur and Han Chinese in Xinjiang on July 5 that left nearly 200 people dead.

She dies the claim and in turn has accused the Chinese government of causing the violence.

She says what was a peaceful demonstration turned violent when armed Chinese forces opened fire on the protesters.