More than 100 Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers have received letters of protest from Chinese Ambassador Cheng Yonghua over the holding of the World Uyghur Congress in Tokyo, an intraparty LDP group said Friday.
LDP Diet member Keiji Furuya, head of a group of LDP lawmakers who support China’s Uighur ethnic minority, told reporters the letters represented excessive interference in the nation’s domestic affairs and 44 of the group’s members will file a joint protest with the ambassador.
The 44 include former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and ex-Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, Furuya said.
In the letter dated May 8, Cheng criticized Japan for hosting the meeting earlier this week, noting it represented interference in China’s domestic affairs, while asking the lawmakers not to contact senior Uighurs living in exile, including Rebiya Kadeer, the leader of the congress.
Furuya, a Lower House member, said the letter was akin to extortion and it did not touch on China’s suppression of human rights in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The LDP group will also call on lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan who also received the letter to join its protest, he added.
On Monday, Kadeer visited the contentious Yasukuni Shrine, which honors the nation’s 2.5 million war dead as well as individuals held responsible for the brutal 20th-century invasions and occupations in the name of the late Emperor Hirohito.
The shrine is a hot spot in Japan’s relations with its Asian neighbors in part because it honors Class A war criminals. It is often seen as a symbol of the country’s wartime aggression.
“Before, we were fighting for our rights, we were protesting against China’s oppression,” Kadeer told reporters after opening the congress. “But now we face a fight for our existence.”
“The situation is now worse than it was in 2009,” when Uighurs demonstrated and clashed with Chinese authorities, she said.
Many Uighurs complain that they are the victims of state-sanctioned persecution and marginalization in their homeland, aided by the migration of millions of Han Chinese into the territory.