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Ties with China strained after it refused to allow Turkish ambassador to visit Uyghur region

January 1, 2023 at 9:08 am

People gather to stage a protest against China’s policies and human rights violations towards Uyghurs [Eren Bozkurt/Anadolu Agency]

Turkiye’s Foreign Minister has revealed that China has refused to allow the Turkish ambassador to visit the Uyghur region in the north-western Xinjiang province, admitting it has strained ties between the two nations.

At an end-of-year press briefing in the capital Ankara on Thursday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stated that the Chinese government “said that a humanitarian delegation from Türkiye could come and examine [Xinjiang]. It’s been five years since [Chinese President] Xi [Jinping] proposed this. Why have you been preventing this delegation from visiting for five years, why don’t you cooperate?”

As a result, he said, “Turkish-Chinese ties have suffered over Beijing being disturbed by our attitude on the Turkic Uyghurs issue. They have extradition requests for people who are our citizens, who live in Türkiye all the time. Therefore, we don’t grant any such requests.”

READ: The Chinese gov’t arrested my Uyghur husband, jailed him for 25 years for visiting Turkiye

Addressing claims and reports over the years that Ankara has been extraditing Uyghurs from the country back to China, Cavusoglu called those claims “a total lie”, stressing that “We defend Turkic Uyghur’s rights in the international arena and this disturbs China. But this is a humanitarian issue.”

He cited the 48-page report that the United Nations’ Human Rights Council published on Uyghurs in September, which found that mass detentions in the Xinjiang region over the years were marked by evident documentation of torture, sexual violence, forced labour, and forced abortions and sterilisations. That report “reveals all [human rights] violations. We have to react to it.”

Instead of allowing the Turkish ambassador in China to freely visit the region where Uyghur Turks live, Cavusoglu stated, Beijing wants him to follow a “program that they provide.”

What Türkiye wants is cooperation with China in a transparent manner, the Foreign Minister insisted. “Why should we become a tool for China’s propaganda? We want to cooperate, we don’t see this as a political issue. We are categorically not anti-Chinese. We have always said that we support the One-China policy.”

READ: The Muslim world must do more to help Uyghurs being persecuted in China