China protests as Uighur leader plans Japan visit

Tokyo, Japan - The exiled leader of China's Uighur minority, Rebiya Kadeer, will visit Japan this week, her supporters said Monday, prompting outrage from China which reportedly labelled her a "criminal".

Kadeer, the US-based head of the World Uighur Congress, plans to meet members of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party during her five-day visit from Tuesday and to give a press conference Wednesday.

The announcement was made by officials at the Uighur group's Japanese chapter, which said that Kadeer plans to call for support for the mainly Muslim Uighur minority following deadly clashes in China's region of Xinjiang.

China's ambassador to Japan, Cui Tiankai, voiced Beijing's anger over the planned visit in an interview with Kyodo News and other media, and hinted that ties between the two nations could be hurt.

"She is a criminal," he was quoted as saying by Kyodo, reportedly likening her to the cult leader behind a 1995 sarin gas attack on Tokyo's subways.

"How would the people of Japan feel if a violent crime occurred in Japan and its mastermind is invited by a third country?"

He added: "We must prevent important matters that should be worked on together (between Japan and China) from being disturbed by a criminal or attention to our common interests from being diverted."

Beijing has accused Kadeer of masterminding the violent unrest between Uighurs and Han Chinese that broke out in the northwestern Xinjiang region on July 5, which left more than 190 people dead. She denies the allegation.

Kadeer spent some six years in a Chinese prison before being released under US pressure in 2005.

Japan's government has said the deaths caused by the unrest in Xinjiang were "very regrettable" and called for a peaceful resolution of the situation.