Page last updated at 04:20 GMT, Tuesday, 18 August 2009 05:20 UK

China 'angry' at Australia tour

By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Sydney

Rebiya Kadeer speaks in Tokyo (29 July 2009)
Mrs Kadeer said China's ethnic minority policies had failed

It has emerged that China cancelled a ministerial visit to Australia in protest against a recent visit from the Uighur leader, Rebiya Kadeer.

Beijing is angry that Canberra granted a visa to Ms Kadeer, an ethnic Uighur Muslim who lives in the United States.

The Australian foreign affairs ministry has confirmed the Kadeer controversy lay behind the cancellation of a visit.

The Kadeer visit has soured Australia's relationship with China - some analysts have suggested it is at a 10-year low.

Chinese officials lobbied hard to stop a film being shown about the Uighur leader's life at the Melbourne International film festival, and then tried to prevent her from addressing the National Press Club in Canberra.

Now it has emerged that Beijing even went as far as to cancel a ministerial visit to Australia, where the Chinese vice foreign minister was supposed to attend a summit earlier in the month of Pacific nation leaders.

The Australian foreign affairs department has confirmed that it was informed via diplomatic channels that the minister would be unable to attend the summit and that the Chinese delegation would be led instead by a junior envoy.

It said the move came in protest at the decision to grant a visa to Rebiya Kadeer and that the Australian government regretted that China felt obliged to take these steps.

It has been a troublesome spell for relations between Beijing and Canberra - which is somewhat ironic since most thought that Australia's Mandarin-speaking Prime Minister Kevin Rudd would bring the countries closer together.

It is not just the Kadeer controversy that has been causing problems, but the arrest in Shanghai of the Australian mining executive Stern Hu, who has been accused of stealing commercial secrets.

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