Chinese Foreign Minister begins visit to Turkey

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday began a three-day visit to Turkey, where he met with senior figures including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“Bilateral relations, as well as current regional and international issues, will be discussed during the visit,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Wang held talks with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in Ankara on Thursday.

Around 300 Uighur activists protested the visit in Istanbul, chanting “Stop Uighur Genocide, Close the Camps”, according to Reuters.

China is accused by countries including the United States of crimes against humanity for its treatment of the Muslim Uighur population in the country’s Xinjiang province.

As many as 40,000 of the Turkic minority group live in Turkey, but Ankara has proved reluctant to publicly criticise Beijing over the issue in recent months.

Turkey’s inoculation programme against COVID-19 is heavily reliant on the Chinese-made SinoVac vaccine. Deliveries of the vaccine to Turkey began in December, shortly after the Turkish government agreed a new extradition treaty with China.

Uighur activists strongly criticised the treaty, which they say leaves them open to prosecution by China. And Turkish authorities recently cracked down on Uighur protests in the country after complaints by the Chinese embassy.  

Following a trip to Beijing in July 2009, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan described China’s actions in Xinjiang as a genocide.

However, a Turkish delegation to the province announced by Çavuşoğlu to investigate the allegations subsequently failed to materialise.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has since described the outcry over the plight of the Uighurs as a "planned international conflict that comes beyond the ocean", an apparent reference to the United States.

Yi met Erdoğan on Thursday.