China rejects Turkey criticism on Uighur re-education camps

A demonstrator wears a mask with the colors of the East Turkestan flag and a hand depicting the Chinese flag to protest Beijing's treatment of Uighurs outside China's consulate in Istanbul in July 2018

Turkey said China's treatment of Uighurs was "a great embarrassment for humanity", in perhaps the strongest condemnation yet from a Muslim country, which have been conspicuously quiet on the issue possibly to avoid Chinese diplomatic or economic retaliation.

State-owned China Radio International released a 25-second video of the pale-faced Heyit, dated 10 February, where he said he was being investigated for "allegedly violating national laws".

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said at a briefing in Beijing that the video proved Heyit was alive.

Turkey's response follows the death in detention of Uighur poet and musician Abdurehim Heyit, which Aksoy said was a tragedy that had "reinforced the reaction of the Turkish public opinion toward serious human rights violations committed in the Xinjiang region".

But critics say China is seeking to assimilate Xinjiang's minority population and suppress religious and cultural practices that conflict with Communist ideology and the dominant Han culture.

"The policy of systematic assimilation against the Uighur Turks carried out by the authorities of China is a great shame for humanity", Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement late on Saturday.

An estimated one million Muslim Uyghurs are believed to be detained in these camps in Xinjiang province.

So far few Muslim-majority countries have joined in public global condemnation of the allegations.

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China condemned Turkey over its claim that a celebrated musician from China's Turkic Muslim Uighur ethnic group has died in custody. Mr Heyit was thought to be serving an eight-year sentence in the Xinjiang region, where up to one million Uighur Muslims are being detained.

However, within 24 hours of Turkey making this statement China has released a video which purportedly shows Heyit alive.

Outside of the camps, more than 10 million Turkic Muslim minorities in the region are subjected to a dense network of surveillance systems, checkpoints and interpersonal monitoring, which severely limit their personal freedom.

Magnus Fiskesjo, associate professor of anthropology at Cornell University, said the "manipulative" video appeared to have been released in a panic and bore a striking similarity to China's televised "confessions".

"I'm now in good health and have never been abused", he said.

China denied the existence of the so-called "de-radicalisation" facilities for months before saying they were, in fact, vocational training centres created to combat extremism.

"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.

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