Erdoğan appears to have traded them for millions of doses of the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine. Protests are taking place in front of the Chinese embassy in Ankara. The ratification of an extradition treaty with China faces an uphill battle. Turkish opposition parties are on the attack against the “sultan”.
Ankara (AsiaNews) – For days, members of the Uyghur community in Turkey have been protesting in front of the Chinese embassy in Ankara against the genocide carried out by the Chinese government against Muslims in Xinjiang.
Now however, “we have news of Uyghurs deported from Turkey to China via third countries,” said Abdürreşit Celil Karluk, a Uyghur sociologist who teaches at Haci Bayram Veli University in Ankara speaking to AsiaNews.
“We are standing in front of the embassy to ask where are our relatives, about whom we have not heard for years,” Karluk explained, “but we have problems with the police.”
The police have in fact put up barriers at the entrance to the building, ordering demonstrators to stop the protest.
For their part, demonstrators, some of whom are survivors of Xinjiang concentration camps, denounced the violence their countrymen endure at the hands of Chinese authorities.
Now Uyghurs living in Turkey fear that the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will deport them to China in exchange for massive supplies of the Chinese coronavirus vaccine.
Turkish opposition leaders have noted that China has delivered only one third of the 30 million doses promised, the Associated Press recently reported.
Turkey has not yet ratified an extradition agreement with China, which was signed years ago and ratified by China last December.
About 50,000 Uyghurs live reside in Turkey, and a few joined the Islamic State group in Syria.
Turkish police have detained about 50 Uyghurs on terrorism charges and are now holding them in deportation centres, Turkish lawyers say.
China has used the charge of terrorism as well as separatism to justify anti-Uyghur repression in Xinjiang. Beijing has also been accused of setting up a system of concentration camps to keep Uyghurs and Kazakhs under control.
According to expert data, confirmed by the United Nations, over a million Uyghurs and member of other Turkic Muslim minorities faith have been arbitrarily detained in Xinjiang, which the indigenous population calls East Turkestan.
Recent press stories have highlighted the existence of labour camps in the Chinese-controlled autonomous region, with hundreds of thousands of Muslims reportedly employed by force, especially during the cotton harvest.
According to German researcher Adrian Zenz, the Chinese government is also conducting a forced sterilisation campaign to control the growth of the Uyghur population.
China has denied these allegation, arguing that the forced labour camps in Xinjiang are actually job training centres, part of a poverty alleviation plan.
Turkish and Chinese authorities have also denied claims that the extradition treaty would be used to deport Uyghur dissidents to China.
For Karluk, “Given the current political situation, it will not be easy for the [Turkish] government to get [the national] parliament to ratify the extradition agreement with China.”
President Erdoğan's religious and nationalist base is very sensitive to the Uyghur cause, a fact that the president’s political opposition is exploiting to weaken him.
A decade ago Erdoğan himself had accused Beijing of carrying out genocide against the Uyghurs; after the failed coup in 2016 and the cooling of relations with the US and Europe, things changed.
In the past few years, the Turkish leader has sought China’s political and economic support, putting any criticism of the East Asian giant behind.