May 23, 2012

East Turkestan: Uyghur Leader Meets Tsunami Survivors

The President of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) Rebiya Kadeer has met with survivors of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan in 2011 to express her condolences on the loss of life they suffered.

Below is a press release issued by the World Uyghur Congress:

World Uyghur Congress President Rebiya Kadeer wrapped up her trip to Japan by visiting tsunami survivors in Fukushima on Saturday [19 May 2012]. Ms. Kadeer led a small delegation of Uyghurs to meet residents of temporary housing for those displaced by last year’s earthquake and tsunami. Ms. Kadeer expressed her sympathies on the deaths of Japanese people who died during last year’s earthquake and tsunami. On March 11 of last year [2011], an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale hit the Tokyo area, followed by a tsunami, killing nearly 19,000 residents.

Ms. Kadeer praised the will of the Japanese people during this tragedy and said she was deeply moved and impressed by the strength and resilience of the Japanese people after the earthquake. With this in mind, she stated that she stands in unison with the good wishes of people from around the world who hope that the people of Japan will soon be able to return to normal life, and that she would pray for their recovery and happiness. Japanese elders were deeply touched by her visit, moving some to shed tears. They thanked Rebiya Kadeer for coming to visit them and for praying for their recovery. More than 50 Japanese elders attended the event.

To express their sympathy and solidarity, Uyghur musicians played traditional Uyghur music and Uyghur dancers danced, inspiring the local residents to join in. Uyghur polo (rice pilaf) and salads were served. After the event, Uyghur delegates and their Japanese hosts visited the flattened lands and devastation caused by last year’s tsunami and prayed for the souls of the dead during this unprecedented disaster.

On Sunday [20 May 2012], Ms. Kadeer spoke with Chinese-language media about her trip to Japan, stating: “I want to make it very clear that in visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, I had absolutely no intention of showing any disrespect to the Chinese people, for whom the Shrine is a very controversial symbol. I toured the grounds of the Shrine on the way to a visit of the graves of several Uyghurs who died in Japan.”

She also repeated her thanks to the government of Japan for its help in granting visas to delegates attending the World Uyghur Congress’s general assembly this week, a clear statement of respect for freedom of speech in response to Chinese government demands that it prevent the meeting from taking place.