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June 28, 2017

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Chinese boycott Australian film festival in Uighur row

MELBOURNE -- Chinese directors have pulled their movies out of Australia's biggest film festival in a row over a documentary about a Uighur leader accused of inciting unrest, organizers said Wednesday.

Melbourne festival head Richard Moore said two Chinese film-makers had withdrawn their movies after he ignored pressure from Beijing to drop the documentary about Rebiya Kadeer, U.S.-based head of the World Uighur Congress.

Moore said he believed Beijing had ordered the withdrawal of films "Perfect Life" and "Cry Me a River" in an attempt at political intimidation ahead of the August 8 screening, which will be attended by Kadeer.

"It's hard to draw any other conclusion," he told AFP.

"It makes me feel angry, annoyed and irritated all at the same time, that they would try to interfere with our program for blatantly political ends."

Moore said an official from Melbourne's Chinese consulate called him earlier this month and urged him to withdraw the documentary, "Ten Conditions of Love", by Australian film-maker Jeff Daniels.

After he "politely hung up" and ignored the request, Moore received a letter this week from Chinese producer Chow Keung notifying him of the films' withdrawal and criticizing the organizers for inviting Kadeer to Australia.

Chow said in the letter that most families of those who died in recent violence between ethnic Uighurs and Han Chinese in the region of Xinjiang believed the World Uighur Congress was involved.

"I am not here to identify the murderer, however in such sorrowful circumstances, it really offends my sense of morals to participate in (the festival) this year," he wrote.

Moore said Beijing's apparent attempts to interfere had backfired, with an extra screening of the documentary being scheduled due to overwhelming public interest stirred up by the controversy.

Chinese authorities have accused Kadeer of orchestrating the recent bloodshed in Xinjiang, home to the mostly Muslim Uighurs and a growing number of settlers from China's Han majority.

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