TAIPEI - Taiwan will not allow exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer to visit the island as proposed in December, an official said on Friday, a move likely to please rival China but upset anti-China factions at home.
Kadeer, a former businesswoman who now leads exile group the World Uyghur Congress, wanted to come in December for a series of speeches at the invitation of an entertainer close to Taiwan's anti-China opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Questioned by legislators on Friday, Taiwan interior Minister Chiang Yih-hwa said the government had confirmed it would not allow the visit, citing safety concerns.
The government's decision today conforms to the interests of the nation and the entire public, Taiwan's ruling, China-friendly Nationalist Party (KMT) said in a statement.
Taiwan opposition leaders have already infuriated China, which sees the self-ruled island as part of its territory and has threatened to use force against it, by hosting the Dalai Lama in early September and showing a Kadeer documentary this week.
China says Kadeer orchestrated ethnic violence in July in Xinjiang, a largely ethnic Uighur region of northwest China, killing about 200 people. She denies the allegation.
China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong's forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek's KMT fled to the island.
But the two sides have worked since mid-2008 to improve relations and are set for high-level trade talks in December close to Kadeer's proposed visit.
China put off low-level visits to Taiwan over the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader seen by Beijing as a separatist, and boycotted a southern city that both hosted him and screened the Kadeer documentary The 10 Conditions of Love.
Chinese officials might have deferred the long-sought trade talks with Taiwan if Kadeer had visited, said Alexander Huang, a strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taipei.
Kadeer's group condemned the decision to deny a visa.
Taiwan's government has completely given in to pressure from Beijing, World Uyghur Congress spokesman Dilxat Raxit said by telephone from Sweden.
Taiwan's foreign policy is now totally in Beijing's pocket.
The documentary on Kadeer raised local awareness of Uighurs in China, said Freddy Lim, a rock star who invited her.
This is the best opportunity to introduce her, to visit Taiwan, to exchange experiences with Taiwanese. he said.
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Jerry Norton)