China on Saturday ratified an extradition treaty with Turkey, a move likely to help Beijing incarcerate Uighurs seeking refuge in Turkey, prompting fear among the large Uighur diaspora — estimated at 50,000 people — in Turkey.
Turkey has linguistic and cultural ties to the Uighurs, a Turkic and Muslim minority.
The treaty covers issues ranging from extradition obligations to the settlement of disputes, according to the full text released online by China’s top legislature.
The treaty was signed during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Beijing in 2017.
During the visit Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke of China’s desire to deepen “counterterrorism cooperation” with Turkey.
China initiated a policy of maximum surveillance of Uighurs in the Xinjiang region after blaming a purportedly separatist Uighur movement for numerous deadly attacks.
According to foreign experts, the Chinese authorities have interned at least 1 million people – Uighurs in particular – in camps.
Beijing presents them as “vocational training centers.”
Many Uighurs have fled to Turkey to escape persecution.
Although the Turkish parliament has not yet ratified the agreement, China’s economic pressure on Ankara has prompted fear among the Uighur community in the country.
“This extradition treaty will cause panic among the Uighurs who fled China and do not yet have Turkish citizenship,” Dilxat Raxit, spokesperson for the Uighur World Congress, an exile organization based in Germany, told Agence France-Presse (AFP). “We call on the Turkish government […] to prevent this treaty from becoming an instrument of persecution,” he added, claiming that Beijing was exerting economic pressure on Turkey to ratify the treaty.