Taipei: Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer is not a terrorist, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou was quoted as saying on Friday, as he addressed one of the most sensitive issues in the island`s relations with China.
Ma was asked in an interview with the Taipei-based Apple Daily if Kadeer, who lives in exile in the United States, was a terrorist, to which he answered: "No". He was not quoted as elaborating on the issue.
Kadeer, branded a "criminal" in Beijing, has become a controversial issue in Taiwan`s China diplomacy after the screening on the island of a biopic about the exiled leader.
Ma, who wants to strengthen ties with China, has signalled that he does not want her to put his mainland policy at risk.
His government said last month it would not allow Kadeer to visit the island, saying the World Uighur Congress, which she leads, has close links to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.
Kadeer has denied any ties with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which is listed as a terrorist organisation by the United States.
Taiwan`s Vice Interior Minister Chien Tai-lang said earlier that the government stood by its decision to bar Kadeer`s visit.
"The decision is based on concerns for national security and national interest. We do not call her a terrorist... There is no reason to give an apology," Chien said previously.
Beijing has blamed Kadeer for violence in her home region of Xinjiang in northwest China in July, which left about 200 dead.
China has recently handed down a series of death sentences in the wake of the unrest.