Page last updated at 11:47 GMT, Wednesday, 22 July 2009 12:47 UK

Chinese directors shun festival

Rebiya Kadeer
Kadeer was, at one time, one of the top businesswomen in Xinjiang

Two Chinese directors have boycotted Australia's biggest film festival over the screening of a documentary about political activist Rebiya Kadeer.

Richard Moore, head of the Melbourne International Film Festival, said their films were pulled after he ignored political pressure from Beijing.

He told the AFP news agency "It's hard to draw any other conclusion."

Chinese authorities blame Kadeer - leader of the World Uighur Congress - for inciting ethnic unrest in Xinjiang.

Earlier this month, at least 197 people died and more than 1,600 were injured during fighting in the region between the mostly Muslim Uighurs and a growing number of settlers from China's Han majority.

Kadeer, 62, spent six years in a Chinese prison before she was released into exile in the US in 2005.

In 2004, she won the Rafto Prize for human rights.

She is expected to attend the screening of Ten Conditions of Love, by Australian documentary-maker Jeff Daniels.

'Annoyed and irritated'

In a statement, Mr Moore said Jia Zhangke, director of the short film Cry Me A River, and Emily Tang, the director of Perfect Life, "have decided to withdraw their films from this year's festival".

He added that Ms Tang had cancelled her trip to Melbourne as a guest of the festival.

Clashes between ethnic groups claimed hundreds of lives
Clashes between ethnic groups claimed hundreds of lives

Mr Moore said the screening of Ten Conditions of Love, which has sold out at the event, was the subject of a phone call from a Chinese consular official last week.

But he said the festival would stand firm by its decision to include the documentary in the programme.

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

China has not commented on the films being withdrawn.

A third Chinese film-maker, Zhao Liang, has also asked the festival to drop his film Petition, a controversial documentary examining injustices in China's court system.

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