Festival refuses to pull Uyghur film

SYDNEY — The Melbourne Film Festival has dismissed a demand by the Chinese government that it scuttle screenings of a documentary about ethnic minorities in China.

Fest topper Richard Moore said an official at the local Chinese consulate phoned him the day the program was published last week to demand cancellation of the world preem for Aussie doc “The 10 Conditions of Love,” about millionaire Uyghur businesswoman Rebiya Kadeer.

“When I told them that I did not have to justify the film’s inclusion, they became increasingly insistent and proceeded to list her (Kadeer’s) crimes,” Moore told the Age newspaper.

Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic group living in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China.

Kadeer has become a well-known campaigner for the independence of her oil-rich homeland, where earlier this month ethnic tensions spilled into violence in which 137 Han Chinese and 46 Uyghur Chinese died in street riots.

She spent five years in prison in China for endangering state security before being exiled to Washington, D.C. The film, directed by Jeff Daniels, takes its title from her relationship with her activist husband Sidik Rouzi.

This incident comes at a time of delicate international relations between China and Australia with the arrest last week of an Australian in China who has been accused of espionage. The senior manager with Australian mining company Rio Tinto is being held without charge and has been denied legal representation.

The Melbourne fest begins July 24. “The 10 Conditions of Love” will preem Aug. 8, during the fest’s final weekend.

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