CANBERRA (Reuters) - Hackers have defaced the website of Australia’s biggest film festival which refused to withdraw a documentary about exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer, organizers said on Monday.
The Chinese government two weeks ago protested to the Melbourne International Film Festival over the inclusion of the documentary and last week three Chinese films were withdrawn in protest at Kadeer’s planned attendance at the August 8 premiere.
Beijing has blamed Kadeer for instigating this month’s ethnic riots in Urumqi in Xinjiang in which almost 200 people died. She denies the claim.
Festival organizer Richard Moore said on Monday that hackers had replaced festival information with the Chinese flag and anti-Kadeer slogans and were continuing to disrupt the site by spamming. He said the attacks appeared to be coming from a Chinese IP address.
The cyber-attack came as festival organizers confirmed that federal and state police had been called in and private security guards hired to protect film-goers and festival staff.
Moore said the intensity of the attacks had only strengthened his desire to screen the film “10 Conditions of Love” by Australian filmmaker Jeff Daniels.
The documentary tells of Kadeer’s relationship with activist husband Sidik Rouzi and the fallout on her 11 children of her push for more autonomy for China’s 10 million mainly Muslim Uighurs. Three of her children have been jailed.
“It just makes our position even stronger and we may even consider programing more sessions of ‘10 Conditions of Love’,” he told state radio.
“We’re also being bombarded at present by a series of absolutely disgusting vile e-mails attacking the festival and using language that I wouldn’t even begin to describe on the radio, it is vile.”
Uighurs are a Muslim people native to Xinjiang, in China’s far west, and culturally tied to Central Asia and Turkey.
China’s government accuses Kadeer’s World Uighur Congress of being a front for extremist militants pushing for a separate East Turkistan homeland. She was arrested in 1999 and found guilty of “providing secret information to foreigners.”
Uighurs attacked Han Chinese in Urumqi on July 5 after police tried to break up a protest against fatal attacks on Uighur workers at a factory in south China. Han Chinese in Urumqi launched revenge attacks later in the week.
The violence saw 197 people killed and more than 1,600 wounded, mostly Han Chinese. About 1,000 people, mostly Uighurs, have been detained in an ensuing government crackdown.
Relations between China and Australia have been strained by the detention this month by Chinese security officials of four staff working for global miner Rio Tinto, related to accusations of commercial spying.
Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Sugita Katyal