Uyghur congress begins in Tokyo

Kyodo

The World Uyghur Congress began its general assembly Monday in Tokyo, with some 120 representatives from the ethnic group’s communities in more than 10 countries participating.

The four-day meeting of the Munich-based organization is taking place despite Chinese opposition to Japan’s issuing of an entry visa to its exiled leader, Rebiya Kadeer, who arrived Sunday for the session. China sees the congress as a separatist organization and has objected to Japan’s hosting of the assembly.

Kadeer criticized the Chinese government at an opening ceremony of the congress for “stepping up its violent, repressive policies” since the 2009 riots in the regional capital, Urumqi, that killed several hundred people.

Urging China to “stop the massacre against Uighurs,” the exiled leader said, “The human rights situation in China is becoming worse every day” and calls for democracy must be heeded.

The organization seeks political independence for the Uighurs, the majority of whom live in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, while some Central Asian countries also have large communities.

Participants of the meeting are expected to select new leaders as the three-year terms of Kadeer, president of the congress, and other members are expiring shortly.