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Not all Uyghurs are terrorists, Turkey tells China

February 18, 2020 at 2:21 pm

People gather to stage a demonstration in support of Uyghur Turks against human rights violations of China, at Orhangazi Park in Bursa, Turkey on 20 December 2019 [Ali Atmaca / Anadolu Agency]

Turkey’s foreign minister on Sunday said China should not label all Muslim ethnic Uyghurs as terrorists, following talks with his Chinese counterpart in Germany, AFP reported.

“Whether Turk, Uyghur Turk, Han Chinese, Buddhist or Christian … it is not right to call all Uyghur Turks terrorists just because one or two terrorists came from a certain ethnic group. And, it is not [right] to target all Uyghurs because of their belief and ethnicity,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters.

The Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim Turkic-speaking ethnic group primarily from China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang, have been subject to religious and ethnic persecution by Chinese authorities and in recent years more than 1 million people have been held in detention camps, the United Nations says.

Ankara has condemned China’s “policy of systematic assimilation against the Uyghur Turks” and its treatment of its Muslim ethnic Uyghur people as “a great embarrassment for humanity.”

Most Muslim majority countries, especially the OIC (the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) countries, have been criticised for being silent over China’s crackdown on the Uyghurs. Last year, former Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil criticised Muslim countries for not speaking up for minorities subjected to abuse in China.

Last year, China sent more than 1 million people to re-education camps in the Xinjiang region they say are part of their fight against terror. Detainees describe horrific abuse inside, including rape and sterilisation.

In February 2019, Saudi Arabia expressed its “respect” for Chinese leader Xi Jinping before signing major commercial contracts with the country.

Egypt, which wants Beijing to finance its infrastructure, went so far as to allow Chinese police to come and interrogate Uyghur exiles on its soil in 2017. Even Pakistan – which has been supporting the Rohingyas – has been silent on the Uyghurs as the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative proceeds in the country.

“There is less solidarity than there is for the Palestinian or Rohingya causes,” noted Sophie Richardson, director for China at Human Rights Watch in an interview with France 24. “China has managed to win these countries’ support because they need Chinese investment,” she added.

UN members are also divided on the Uyghur issue. In 2019, the UK  led 22 other countries at the United Nations in condemning China over the country’s detention of Muslims. Yet the UK government is also promoting a Chinese surveillance company that has been blacklisted by the US after it was “implicated” in human rights violations against the country’s Uyghur Muslim minority.

Shortly after the UK’s statement, China’s ally Belarus made its own statement on behalf of 54 countries voicing approval of China’s counter terrorism programme in Xinjiang.

READ:  China ‘promotes repentance’ in Uyghur prison camps, leaked reports show