China has warned its citizens travelling in Turkey to be careful of anti-Beijing protests, claiming that some Chinese tourists have recently been “attacked and disturbed”.
The notice, posted on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website on Sunday, said there had been “multiple” demonstrations in Turkey targeting the Chinese government.
Relations between Turkey and China have been strained recently over the treatment of Muslim Uighur people in China’s far western region of Xinjiang, who have reportedly had been banned from worship and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.
A statement from the İstanbul branch of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) rejected media reports that its youth branch attacked a group of Korean tourists that were mistaken for Chinese tourists after a protest against the Chinese authorities’ treatment of Uighurs in İstanbul on Saturday. According to the statement, the MHP said no attack against tourists took place but rather the crowd briefly engaged in an altercation with the police.
China’s treatment of the Uighurs is an important issue for many Turks, who see themselves as sharing a common cultural and religious background. Turkey vowed on Friday to keep its doors open to ethnic Uighurs fleeing persecution.
“Absolutely do not get close to or film the protests, and minimize to the greatest extent outside activities on one’s own,” the Chinese notice said.
On Sunday in İstanbul, several hundred protesters marched towards the Chinese consulate carrying flags and chanting anti-China slogans outside the building, located towards the end of a leafy uphill road from the coast of the Bosphorus strait.
Earlier in the day, some of the protesters had burned a Chinese flag.
“They [the Uighurs] are our brothers and are being persecuted for their faith. They did nothing wrong, their only fault is to be Muslim,” said 17-year-old Muhammet Gökçe, who was wearing a blue head band with the words “East Turkestan you are not alone.”
“Turkey should embrace its brothers, should save them from the brutal hands of communist China.”
Turkey also vowed on Friday to keep its doors open to ethnic Uighur migrants fleeing persecution in China, a stance likely to exacerbate Ankara’s row with Beijing over its treatment of the Turkic-language speaking minority.
Erdoğan to visit China
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will make a previously unscheduled visit to China amid the escalation of tension in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, where ethnic Uighurs have been subjected to bans on the practice of their religion as well as killings.
Erdoğan, who will visit China on June 28, is expected to convey to the Chinese officials Turkey’s concern over the bans relating to Muslim Uighurs, such as the prohibition of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, and the killings of at least 18 Uighurs in late June.
The visit will also take place as part of Erdoğan’s talks with the leaders of G-20 countries before the G-20 leaders’ summit to be hosted by Turkey in November.
The holy month of Ramadan is a sensitive time in Xinjiang following a rise in attacks over the past three years that have cost hundreds of lives. Beijing for its part has blamed the attacks on militants.
Earlier in June, state media and government websites in Xinjiang published stories and official notices demanding that party members, civil servants, students and teachers not observe Ramadan, something that also happened last year.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry has voiced strong concerns regarding the lingering human rights violations against Muslims in China, calling for international action.
“Our people have been saddened over the news that Uighur Muslims have been banned from fasting or carrying out other religious practices in the Xinjiang region,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
French Senate hosts conference to highlight plight of Uighurs
A conference was organized at the French Senate on Saturday focusing on the oppressive policies followed by the Xinjiang state administration against Uighurs.
The conference was held under the chairmanship of Andre Gattolin, the vice chair of the French Senate’s Finance and European Affairs Committees and included participants such as World Uighur Congress Vice President Asgar Can along with Uighur, Vietnamese and Tibetan guests.
In his speech Galloit, arguing that China should respect the beliefs and lifestyle of the Uighurs, said, “Our fight will continue until the day Muslim Uighurs in East Turkistan will receive humanly treatment.”
Can said 28 Uighurs were slain in the last month and lamented the limitations placed on the Uighurs, which, according to Can, also constitute an attempt to assimilate Uighurs.
“The oppression against Uighurs rises relentlessly. Fasting, having a beard and wearing [a] headscarf are banned. … More than 20 million Uighurs live [in Xinjiang], [the Chinese administration] should recognize the existence of Uighurs and abandon assimilationist policies against them,” said Can.
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