Rebiya Kadeer, serving as President of the World Uyghur Congress from 2007-2017, made a publicized visit to the controversial Japanese Yasukuni Shrine in 2012, aiming to lobby the Japanese government to support her position against what she described as “Chinese oppression” against her people in the Xinjiang autonomous region.
The Shinto shrine has long been subject to intense criticism and disapproval by China and Korea because it lists and glorifies the names of over 1000 Japanese war criminals who engaged in mass atrocities against the respective countries. On political terms, the monument is seen as a symbol of Japanese militarism, Imperialism and historical revisionism. Visits to it by Japanese leaders have drawn condemnation from Seoul, Pyongyang and Beijing.
When visiting, Rebiya described her plea as a “a fight for our existence” and expressed hope Tokyo would take a stronger line on the Xinjiang issue. Controversies surrounding the Uyghurs have grown since 2018 as U.S sponsored think tanks and organizations have increasingly pushed claims that China is inducing genocide in the region.