Turkey summons Chinese envoy over response to Uighur claims

Many of the 40,000 Uighurs in Turkey have criticised the government’s approach to Beijing after China approved an extradition treaty in December which they fear may lead to them being sent back to China to face vague charges which they deny.

Wednesday 07/04/2021
Ethnic Uighur protesting April in Istanbul against Chinese foreign minister’s visit (REUTERS)
Ethnic Uighur protesting April in Istanbul against Chinese foreign minister’s visit (REUTERS)

ANKARA--Turkey called in China’s ambassador on Tuesday after his embassy said it had “the right to respond” to opposition leaders who criticised China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims three decades ago.

The politicians, IYI Party leader Meral Aksener and Ankara mayor Mansur Yavas of the main opposition CHP, had commemorated what they called the 31st anniversary of a brief uprising by Uighurs against the government in China’s far west.

Aksener said on Twitter “we will not remain silent about their persecution” and martyrdom. Yavas said “we still feel the pain of the massacre” in 1990.

Ambassador Liu Shaobin was summoned to the ministry after his embassy tweeted a statement in response.

“The Chinese side determinedly opposes any person of power that in any way challenges China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and strongly condemns this,” it said. “The Chinese side reserves its legitimate right to respond.”

Many of the 40,000 Uighurs in Turkey have criticised the government’s approach to Beijing after China approved an extradition treaty in December which they fear may lead to them being sent back to China to face vague charges which they deny. However, the Turkish parliament has yet to ratify the agreement.

Hundreds protested as China’s foreign minister visited Ankara last month.

UN experts estimate at least a million Uighurs and other Muslims are held in detention centres in northwest China’s Xinjiang. The United States said in January China had committed “genocide and crimes against humanity” by repressing Uighurs.

Aksener and Yavas are seen as potential rivals to President Tayyip Erdogan in elections slated for 2023.