Turkey summons China's envoy over Uighur tweets

Turkey summons China's envoy over Uighur tweets
Turkey summoned China's ambassador over tweets denouncing two top Turkish politicians over their criticism of Beijing's crackdown on Uighurs in Xinjiang.
2 min read
A supporter of the Uighur minority attends a protest in Istanbul, Turkey [AFP]

Turkey on Tuesday summoned China's ambassador after his office took to social media to denounce two top Turkish politicians over their criticism of Beijing's crackdown on Uighurs in Xinjiang.

The Chinese embassy said it "strongly" condemned Good Party leader Meral Aksener and Ankara mayor Mansur Yavas for posting tweets commemorating a deadly April 1990 conflict between Uighur separatists and Chinese government forces.

Accounts of those events vary but they are believed to have been followed by mass arrests of Uighurs, tens of thousands of whom have since taken refuge in Turkey.

Aksener, who forms part of the right-wing opposition to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, tweeted that Turks "will not remain silent to the oppression."

Turks will fight for the "absolute independence" of the Uighurs' self-proclaimed republic of East Turkestan, Aksener said.

Yavas, who is a leading member of the main opposition CHP party, tweeted the Turks "feel the pain of the massacre in East Turkestan as if it happened today".

In its account of the 1990 standoff, Amnesty International said "protests and rioting, reportedly led by members of an Islamic nationalist group, resulted in many deaths".

The Chinese ambassador Liu Shaobin was summoned by Turkey's foreign ministry after his office said that "the Chinese side reserves the right to respond" to Aksener and Yavas's comments.

"China is opposed with determination to any challenge by any individual or power to its sovereignty and territorial integrity," the Chinese embassy tweeted, tagging Aksener and Yavas's Twitter accounts.

The Turkish foreign ministry conveyed Ankara's "unease" over the embassy's tweet, press reports said. 

Rights groups believe at least one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in camps spread out across China's northwestern Xinjiang region.

Turkey's cultural bonds with the Uighurs have made it a favoured destination for avoiding persecution in Xinjiang. 

But many in the 50,000-strong community express unease over Ankara's growing dependence on Chinese investments and coronavirus vaccines.

Last month, hundreds of Uighurs rallied in Istanbul to protest a visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi for meetings with Erdogan and Turkish officials in Ankara.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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