Dozens of Uyghurs gathered in front of the Chinese Consulate in İstanbul on Wednesday to protest Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Turkey before a meeting between Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and Yi in Ankara, condemning the ongoing persecution they say their people face in China’s Xinjiang region, Voice of America’s Turkish edition reported.
Uyghurs chanted slogans such as “Fascist China, stop Uyghur genocide” and “Turkey, protect your brothers.”
One of the protestors, Abdülsamed Hoten, told Voice of America that Yi is one of the perpetrators of human rights abuses against Uyghurs and added that his visit to Turkey was disturbing for the community.
In response to Yi’s visit, Uyghur organizations in Turkey also issued a joint press statement calling on Turkish authorities to recognize and react to what they described as a “genocide and crime against humanity” perpetrated by China against Uyghurs and other Muslim Turkic peoples in Xinjiang.
According to the Uighur organizations, China has been carrying out large-scale arrests of Uyghurs and other Muslim Turkic peoples since 2017, subjecting them to various forms of abuse including forced labor, sterilization, forced marriages and sexual harassment. They also alleged that China has locked up influential figures in Uyghur society, including thinkers, scientists, teachers, doctors, writers and religious scholars, in what they referred to as Nazi-type concentration camps.
The Uyghur organizations pointed to multiple international testimonies, reports and documents, including a report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, that provide credible evidence of these alleged human rights abuses. They expressed disappointment that a motion to investigate China’s human rights violations at the UN, which Turkey supported, was rejected, with the majority of Muslim countries siding with China.
The Chinese foreign minister’s visit to Turkey was mainly focused on economic cooperation, including the Belt and Road Initiative, a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan to connect economies across Asia, Europe and Africa. The talks also touched on encouraging more Chinese companies to invest in Turkey, importing more Turkish products and supporting businesses from both nations to use local currency for trade settlement.
Turkish Foreign Minister Fidan welcomed the initiative and expressed Turkey’s willingness to deepen cooperation with China in multiple fields.
These developments come amid criticisms and concerns raised by various international bodies and countries, including the United States and the European Union, over China’s alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Parliaments in several countries have passed non-binding motions describing China’s actions as genocide, including Canada, Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Lithuania and France.
China’s treatment of the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities has drawn international condemnation, with human rights groups estimating that some 1 million Uyghurs have been arbitrarily incarcerated in a network of prison camps in Xinjiang.
Beijing denies all allegations of abuse of Uyghurs and describes the camps as vocational training facilities to combat religious extremism.
Turkey has been a destination for thousands of Uyghurs fleeing China and home to a sizable Uyghur diaspora. But a Turkey-China extradition treaty signed in 2017 that is still awaiting ratification by the Turkish parliament led to fears that it could be used to target Uyghurs in Turkey.
The Uyghurs have sought refuge in Turkey because of their shared cultural ties.
Turkey, however, has become less vocal about the plight of the Uyghurs in recent years as it has developed economic ties with China.