Japan's foreign ministry downplayed yesterday the impact of Rebiya Kadeer's visit to Japan, contrary to the result of a poll conducted among Chinese online users.
As of late last night, 90.7 percent of almost 20,000 Web users polled at huanqiu.com said they believed bilateral ties would be negatively impacted by the visit of the leader of the World Uyghur Congress alleged to have plot the deadly Xinjiang riots.
Hu Ang, a leader of overseas Chinese students in Japan, said his peers were angered by Japan's permission of entry for the Uygur exile, which was believed to be “an interference in the internal affairs of China.” No protesting had been arranged to object though, Hu said, citing security concerns.
An official of Japan's foreign ministry, who asked to remain anonymous, however, told the Global Times yesterday that he was confident bilateral ties would not turn sour.
“The two countries have set up a strategic and mutually beneficial relationship, and there are broader fields to focus on. The visit by a civilian won't have a bad influence on bilateral relations,” the official said, noting that Japanese officials would not meet Kadeer during her visit.
“The visa was issued to Kadeer in accordance with Japanese domestic laws and following conventional procedures,” he said.
Kadeer arrived in Tokyo yesterday for a three-day visit to Japan and will hold a press conference today.
According to a notice on the website of the Japan Policy Institute, Kadeer will skip a speech at a symposium originally scheduled for tomorrow in Tokyo and head back to the US for a closed-door meeting Friday on the Urumqi riots of July 5 that killed nearly 200 people. The meeting was arranged by the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Kadeer's husband will instead chair the symposium in Tokyo and present a pre-recorded speech by Kadeer.
It is unknown whether it was the institute, mainly formed by Japan's right-wing hardliners, that issued the invitation to Kadeer to visit Japan. Kadeer's supporters said she would meet some members of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Japanese media reported that Kadeer was invited by some human rights activists but refused to reveal their identities. Tokyo-based Jiji Press suggested that Mizutani Naoko, a lecturer at Japan's Chuo University, is behind the invitation and will host the symposium.
Geng Xin, deputy director of the JCC Japan Research Institute, said the mystery surrounding who invited Kadeer reflects the lack of confidence in and the tension surrounding the debate.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed its strong dissatisfaction Monday with the Japanese government's green light for Kadeer's visit, while Cui Tiankai, China's ambassador to Japan, hinted that the visit could harm relations between the two neighbors that have improved after years of diplomatic spats over World War II history.
The public is expecting the Chinese government to take a tougher stance on Japan. “The Chinese government should impose appropriate sanctions on the Japanese government. Otherwise, they will do it again,” a Web user wrote on huanqiu.com.
“How could a criminal of China become an honorable guest in Japan? Damn it! China should play hard in foreign policies,” another post said.
Kadeer, once a successful businesswoman in Xinjiang. has denied any involvement in the riots.
China has rarely commented on Kadeer's travels before. In November 2007, Kadeer visited Japan for the first time, invited by the Japan branch of Amnesty International. The Dalai Lama has also visited Japan more than 10 times, to preach his views about the “Tibet issue” and call on Japanese politicians to interfere in the matter.
Not knowing why China objects to Kadeer's visit, some Japanese claim that China is interfering with Japan's domestic affairs. Kondou, a 35-year-old IT engineer in Tokyo, said he didn't know about Kadeer until he read online reports.
Liu Jiangyong, a professor of International Relations at the Institute of International Studies of Tsinghua University, argued that it is necessary to strengthen public diplomacy to enhance awareness of the truth of Urumqi's violent incident in Japanese society, which may find it hard to understand the complicated ethnic issue as a homogeneous society.
“Foreign diplomacy is an art. In addition to formal statements by the government, the media and non-governmental organizations should also play an important role in the campaign against separatist groups,” Liu said. “Warning Japan with economic or political measures on this issue is neither wise nor effective.”
Liu Junhong, a researcher at the Institute of Japanese Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said Kadeer's visit is just a minor action under a broader strategy of the Japanese authorities to contain China's development.
“What they want to see is the price that China has to pay and the failure of China in its effort to focus all resources on development,” Liu said.
These actions deserve attention, but China needn't respond to each and every trick by Japan, Liu added.
“China is capable of leading regional cooperation and heading the establishment of the world's system,” Liu said.