Turkey’s bonding with China worries Uighurs

The deepening courtship between Turkey and China will only intensify the plight of Uyghurs in both countries, Aykan Erdemir, a former Turkish MP and researcher at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said on Monday in National Interest.

Erdemir maintained that despite Turkey’s pretension to become a patron of oppressed Muslims, the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan develops his country’s bilateral relations with China, a country that persecutes its Turkic-Muslim Uighur minority.

“This spells trouble for the 50,000 Uighurs who have taken refuge in Turkey as well as their 12 million brethren back in China”, said Erdemir.

Turkish-Chinese relations are developing.on a steady pace. In 2012 China and Turkey made a yuanlira swap deal that is still in use. Moreover, China has invested heavily in infrastructure projects, including a 65 percent stake in Turkey’s third-largest container port in Istanbul.

On the other hand, hundreds of Uighur staged protests in Istanbul and Ankara during Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Turkey, demanding the Turkish government take a stronger stance against China. In January and February, Turkish police intervened in Uighur protests over public health and security concerns, the police said.

Turkey signed an extradition treaty with China in 2017 which leaves Turkey’s Uighur diaspora vulnerable.

The disappearance of the members of Turkey’s Uighur diaspora has raised further concerns about the safety of Uighurs in Turkey, said Erdemir adding that many suspect Beijing is behind such incidents and that the Chinese have pressured Ankara to either utilize the Turkish police or allow Chinese operatives to roam freely within Turkey’s borders to harass the Uighurs.

Erdemir remarked that the Turkish government’s reluctance or inability to condemn of China’s abysmal treatment of the Uighurs speaks volumes about the state of Turkish democracy in a country where almost the entire nation supports the Uighur cause.

Erdemir believes that China expects Erdoğan to sustain his iron grip over Turkey and continue to muzzle reactions from Turkish citizens and Uighur refugees.

“The deepening courtship between these two authoritarian regimes will only intensify the plight of Uighurs in both countries”, Erdemir said.