The 13th China-Japan friendship exchange meeting kicked off on Thursday, May 24 in Guiyang, capital of southwest China’s Guizhou Province. Tang Jiaxuan, president of the China-Japan Friendship Association, ranted about what he perceived as “critical failures” in the bilateral relations, referring to the recent conflict over the Senkaku Islands and the hosting of the World Uyghur Congress in Tokyo earlier this month. Tang stated that each country needed to respect the others’ core interests and primary concerns. A scheduled visit to Japan by the People’s Liberation Army’s top uniformed military leader was also canceled, reportedly in protest to the disputed islands issue, as well as the gathering by the World Uyghur Congress.

The 4th World Uyghur Congress, comprised of Uyghur exiles now scattered throughout the world, was held in mid-May. The Uyghur are a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority from Eastern and Central Asia, with most in a region of China called Xinjiang, also known as East Turkestan. Xinjiang has been a contested region, with past attempts by the Uyghur to keep/have it as their own autonomous republic. There are many similarities to the plight of the Tibetans, including the Chinese government’s designating them as a group having close ties with terrorists bent on fomenting unrest and splitting up China. The WUC identifies itself as a group using “peaceful, nonviolent, and democratic means to determine the political future of East Turkestan” and WUC leader Rebiya Kadeer stated critically that China’s repression has worsened since the July 2009 Xinjiang riots, that in addition to denying the Uyghurs autonomy, it is in fact driving the people and their culture into extinction.

China voiced its “strong displeasure and opposition” to Japan for allowing the event to occur, and how it is damaging to the relationship between the two nations. To his credit, Japanese Prime Minister Noda sent a letter of objection back to China in response to the letters China had sent to many Japanese lawmakers pressuring them not to have any contact with the WUC.