China has slammed Turkey’s criticism of its policy against the country’s Uighur Muslim community, labelling the latter’s condemnation a “double standard”.
Turkey broke its silence this weekend over China’s mass detention of Uighur Muslims, telling Beijing that its continued subjugation of the ethnic minority is “a great cause of shame for humanity”.
In a statement released on Saturday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy said: “It is no longer a secret that more than one million Uighur Turks, who are exposed to arbitrary arrests, are subjected to torture and political brainwashing in concentration centres and prisons.”
“The systematic assimilation policy of Chinese authorities towards Uighur Turks is a great embarrassment for humanity,” Aksoy added.
Aksoy’s remarks were referring to widespread reports of China’s mass incarceration of its Muslim Uighur minority, most of who live in the north-western province of Xinjiang. The region was incorporated into modern China after leaders of the East Turkestan Republic surrendered to the Chinese Communist Party in 1949.
Though Muslim majority countries have so far refused to voice their concerns over the treatment of their co-religionists, Turkey’s public reprimand of Beijing has been met with criticism. In a lengthy response posted on its website, China’s Embassy in Ankara called Aksoy’s comments “completely unacceptable”.
Defending their detention camps, Beijing said that “both China and Turkey face the arduous task of fighting terrorism”. “We are opposed to maintaining double standards on the question of fighting terrorism,” it added, in a thinly-veiled reference to Turkey’s campaign against Kurdish militant groups in Syria.
“We hope the Turkish side will have a correct understanding of the efforts made by China to legally deploy measures to effectively fight terrorism and extremism, withdraw its false accusations and take measures to eliminate their harmful effects,” it added.
Since the 1990s, Uighur groups have tried to regain independence for East Turkestan, which China has vehemently quashed. Large oil fields have been discovered in the Xinjiang region, described by Beijing as “an inseparable part of the unitary multi-ethnic Chinese nation”. China National Petroleum (CNPC) has unveiled plans to invest more than $22 billion by 2020 in oil and gas operations in the western parts of Xinjiang, home to nearly 13 million Muslims.
Calls for independence by Uighur Muslims have been met with mass detentions and human rights abuses. Beijing has erected detentions centres covering more than two million square metres to force its Muslim Uighur minority to pledge their allegiance to the Chinese state.
Former detainees have described their ordeal, saying they were injected with unknown substances and subjected to physical and mental torture.