It is hard to not feel some sympathy for the Uighur cause. A host of nation states emerged out of the collapses of the Chinese, Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires in the period 1912 -18, only to be reabsorbed in their successors in the world-wide descent into madness of the late 1930s and 1940s. Almost all of these absorbed nations have since been reestablished as independent and autonomous states, with the exceptions being the continental Asian states on China's periphery: Tanu Tuva, Tibet and East Turkestan. The Tibetan and Uighur claims on their homelands are being undone by the irrational (the Cultural Revolution) and rational (urban development) destruction of the physical traces of their distinctive cultures and mass Han Chinese immigration into these formerly undesirable areas. That the Han immigrants, sick of the altitude (in the case of Tibet), the lack of water and isolation will likely move out again in a few generation's time is pretty much a given, but hardly a salve for the present generation of Uighurs and Tibetans. (Link)
[The Tuvans, due to the extreme isolation of their land, the lack of a demographic need for ressetlement of Russia's population -- which is indeed collapsing at an alarming rate -- and the lack of Russian government interest in stirring up trouble with any of its dozens of ethnic oblasts or republics, given what has happened and is still happening in the Caucasus Region, have shown zero interest in reestablishing their independence, limited as it was.]
However, the Uighurs are courting real disaster by coming to Tokyo. Their hosts here are not a coalition of conservative and liberal organizations and individuals, as would be the case were the conference being held in the U.S. or Germany. Instead, their hosts and likely underwriters of the costs of holding the Congress in Tokyo -- where the hard yen would blow the budget of any normal non-profit - are the most retrogressive of this blessed land's hard right wing. The above linked article's mention of:
"Several members of the Japanese political opposition participated in the opening session and expressed support for the Uighur cause."is a very bad sign. Arch-conservatives parliamentarians Hiranuma Takeo (Link - J) and Fukuya Keiji (J - personal blog) and three other Diet members have been reported as having attended sessions of the conference. Fellow traveler Yamatani Eriko (possibly one of the attendees) and other MPs have hosted their own gatherings publicizing the Uighur struggle for self-preservation and self-determination. (Link - J)
[Incidentally, several of these MPs made a Golden Week pilgrimage to Palisades Park, New Jersey, to buttonhole the mayor there into removing a monument commemorating the Comfort Women (Link). All the members of this expedition into enemy territory -- ironic really, given that during the Bubble Years, Palisades Park and its neighboring town of Fort Lee were home to the expatriate Japanese community -- documented this brave endeavor (Link - J and Link - J), part of the GWOSG (the Global War On Symbols and Gestures*). Given that the present population of Palisades Park is 50% Korean-American, the mayor told the visiting members of the Diet they were wasting their and his time. (Link -J)**
These same Diet members were flabbergasted when they visited Washington, this time to publicize the plight of the families of the DPRK abductees, only to be greeted by Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and the Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell telling them, "We here in the U.S. have our own abductee problem of young American citizens being abducted to Japan, often against the custody rulings of U.S. courts (Link - J)." Hiranuma's blood pressure probably hit the roof, which is bad for him, as he has already had one debilitating stroke.]
As for the claims that disgraced Air Self Defense Forces Chief of Staff Tamogami Toshio has attended conference sessions or that members of the attending Uighur delegation visited Yasukuni Shrine, these seem to be inventions of Chinese news organizations (I invite evidence of my being wrong here).
[Later - Reader MP has pointed to the Channel Sakura coverage of the conference (Link J and U - You Tube). Not only was Tamogami Toshio present, he addressed the conference, as did Hiranuma, plus a long list of the usual suspects: members of the House of Representatives Shimomura Hakubun and Takaichi Sanae and author and critic Sakurai Yoshiko. Tamogami clocks in at 7:28 into the broadcast.
As for the visit to Yasukuni, it is hard to argue with the video of Kadeer's visit to the shrine starting at 10:45 in the broadcast.
Interesting how the mainstream media did not report these two stories.
To the members of the Chinese news media, my apologies.]
The association of Japan's ultra right and Islamic nationalism goes back a long way. As scholar of Japan's historical relations with Islam Michael Penn reminded me in a private communication, Japanese support Islamic self-determination movements was a staple of 1930s Japanese involvement in Asia, though by private rightist organizations, not the Imperial government (Link). This support was often carried out under the rubric of Pan-Asianism (Yoshikawa Yukie has produced a comprehensive survey in English of pre-1945 Pan-Asianist writing. Scholars of China will likely fault the paper for its unfortunate indiscriminate switching from pinyin to Wade-Giles and back again) which a cynic would, in the Uighur case, put down to a de facto desire to keep China weak.
One hopes that Kadeer and her movement realize that joining hands and accepting the support of Japan's right, because of historical resonances, is a one-way ticket to illegitimacy.
The signs, however, are that she does not:
"The 63-year-old leader said the international community seems more interested in trade with China than in human rights. But she noted that Japan’s support in hosting the general assembly illustrated a growing awareness of the Uighur issue."Not exactly, Madame President.
* To which South Korean organizations, with their crusades to rename the Sea of Japan and their bolstering of South Korea's de facto hold on Tokto/Takeshima through full-page ads in U.S. newspapers, are hardly strangers to.
** Which is not to say that the visit of the arch-conservatives to Palisades Park did not have any affect. According to the Sankei Shimbun, the government of Japan has lodged a formal protest against the monument. (Link - J)