China denies any ‘political motive’ in Turkey vaccine delivery slowdown


China has denied any “political motive” behind the slow sale of vaccines to Turkey, the Yetkin Report blog reported on Saturday. 

Sources at the Chinese embassy told journalist Murat Yetkin that any slowdown in delivery had to do with prioritising China’s own vaccination campaign over exporting vaccines abroad. These sources added that China’s vaccination drive was completed on May 7 and Beijing would make good on its promises to deliver more doses to Turkey by the end of the month.

Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca previously said that Turkey would receive 100 million doses of China’s SinoVac vaccine by the end of May, lining up with what Yetkin was told by his sources. They told him that China provided to date 26 million doses, despite initial hopes of acquiring double that amount by last February.  

Turkey’s relationship with China has been controversial over concerns that Beijing was seeking to exact concessions in exchange for vaccine deliveries. 

Chief among the concessions is believed to be ratification of an extradition treaty Turkey signed with China in 2017. After China ratified the deal last year, there remains fears within Turkey’s Uighur community that the Chinese authorities would seek to extradite their members where they could be sent to concentration camps in Xinjiang province. 

Xinjiang is the homeland of the Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim people, but China’s government has dramatically increased its repression of their cultural rights. Today, over one million Uighurs are believed to be interned at government concentration camps where they are subjected to various forms of physical and mental abuse. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was among the first leaders to refer to the Chinese government’s policies in Xinjiang as “genocide”, but his criticisms have softened as Turkey has grown more dependant upon China economically. The Turkish parliament and public are strongly in favour of protecting Uighurs in the country and opposition parties in particular have slammed Erdogan’s tepidness in speaking up for their plight. 

Yetkin’s sources defend the delay in deliveries as unconnected to disagreements over the Uighurs. They said that the deliveries will start again “as soon as possible in May” and Turkish-Chinese relations were not experiencing any political problems for the time being.