Uyghur Activist to Visit New Zealand

October 10, 2009 Updated: October 1, 2015

Keith Locke, member of parliament for the Green Party.
Keith Locke, member of parliament for the Green Party.
NEW ZEALAND—Rebiya Kadeer, human rights activist and exiled leader of the Uyghur people from China's Northwestern province of Xinjiang has been granted a visa to speak in New Zealand next week.

“Ms Kadeer will speak on the discrimination and human rights abuses that are being perpetrated against the Uyghur people in China,” said Keith Locke, member of parliament for the Green Party who are hosting the Uighur leader.

“I think that the world supporting a human rights activist like Ms Kadeer helps to promote democracy in China.”

Ms Kadeer's visit to New Zealand is a reminder that the influence of the Chinese Communist Party extends well beyond its borders.

Last month, Maori Television screened the controversial documentary 10 Conditions of Love, despite pressure from the Chinese Embassy.

The film documents the life of Ms Kadeer and the struggle for the rights of the Uyghur people. Mr Locke called the Chinese embassy's pressure on Maori Television "shocking."

The Green Party initially organised a public meeting at Auckland University but were told that Ms Kadeer would not be allowed on campus because of "security concerns."

“One must come to the conclusion that the Chinese Government pressured the University of Auckland in the same way that they pressured Maori TV …”

“The lack of democracy in China is actually spreading to New Zealand and pressure on New Zealand democratic institutions, and we can't accept that. It is bad enough to have a one party state in China without it trying to extend its influence and rule to other countries in this way.”

Student leaders at Auckland University also said they were "dismayed" at the decision.

“Universities have a clear role in New Zealand, to act as the ‘critic and conscience of society,' and comes at certain costs," said Darcy Peacock, president of the students’ association in a press release.

“The University and the Students’ Association have hosted many controversial speakers over their long history, and the fact that some people might disagree with a speaker is no excuse to prevent them from visiting our campus.”

Born into a poor family, Ms Kadeer rose to be one of the richest women in China, and her work as a philanthropist, particularly for the advancement of her own people, earned her praise and recognition from the Chinese Communist Party.

She fell from grace after criticising the Communist regime for the unjust treatment of the Uyghur people and was sentenced to prison where she spent six years. Since her release, following international pressure, Ms Kadeer has continued to campaign for justice.

Rebiya Kadeer will be speaking at 7.30pm, Tuesday, Oct. 13 at the Pioneer Womans' Hall, CBD, Auckland.