Kaohsiung reconsidering Uighur screening

Taiwan film festival may drop documentary to avoid China ire

TAIPEI -- Taiwan's second-largest city is reconsidering plans to show a film about Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer over concerns it would upset China, just weeks after the Dalai Lama's visit to the island, officials said on Friday.

The documentary had been scheduled to be screened at next month's annual film festival in Kaohsiung, whose mayor Chen Chu is backed by Taiwan's anti-China opposition party.

Chinese officials say that Kadeer, a former businesswoman who now leads exile group the World Uyghur Congress, orchestrated ethnic violence in Xinjiang, an ethnic Uighur region of northwest China, killing about 200 people.

She denies the claim.

"We've had plans to show the film, but we're now doing a re-evaluation," Kaohsiung spokesman Chang Chia-hsing said.

The Chinese government agency in charge of Taiwan affairs sounded off against the film on Wednesday.

"We do not hope for any repeat of incidents that might disturb the peaceful development of cross-strait relations," Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Yang Yi said at a regular news conference on Wednesday.

China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists fled to the island. The two sides have worked to ease relations since the mid-2008 election of the Kuomintang's Ma Ying-jeoh as president.

A furor erupted in Australia earlier this year when Chinese embassy staff pushed unsuccessfully for the same documentary to be dumped from the country's biggest film festival in Melbourne, prompting an angry public backlash and higher audience numbers.

Kaohsiung and several opposition-led Taiwan counties irked Beijing earlier this month when they invited the Dalai Lama to pray for victims of typhoon Morakot, which killed up to 770 people, mostly in mudslides.

Beijing sees the Tibetan spiritual leader as a separatist.

Some Chinese state-run travel agents have been asked to avoid Kaohsiung hotels since the Dalai Lama's visit, contributing to a marked September decline in room bookings, said Taipei Association of Travel Agents official Anthony Liao.

The industrial port city, with a population of 1.5 million, has struggled through the global economic downturn as Taiwan exports declined and is looking to tourism as a new income source.