Under Pressure, Turkey Breaks Its Silence on China’s Mass Detention of Uighurs

Under Pressure, Turkey Breaks Its Silence on China’s Mass Detention of Uighurs
People from the Uighur community in Turkey carry flags of what ethnic Uighurs call ‘East Turkestan,’ during a protest in Istanbul, Nov. 6, 2018 (AP photo by Lefteris Pitarakis).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China.

While the mass incarceration of more than 1 million Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang autonomous region continues to garner media attention and international condemnation, Muslim-majority countries have been largely silent on the issue. On Saturday, Turkey bucked that trend when it issued a statement calling on China to close its internment camps and criticizing the “torture and political brainwashing” of Chinese Uighurs as “a great shame for humanity.”

The statement was prompted by recent reports that Abdurehim Heyit, a renowned Uighur folk poet and musician, had died in Chinese custody. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said it had “learned with deep sorrow” of Hayit’s death. However, a video released Sunday by Chinese state media outlet China Radio International shows a man who identified himself as Heyit, saying he was under investigation for “allegedly violating the national laws” but was “now in good health” and had never been abused. Uighur activists said Heyit’s testimony could have been coerced or even digitally altered. News outlets have been unable to independently confirm the authenticity of the video. On Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the video showed Turkey’s statement was an “absurd lie.”

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