Turkey called on China to close its internment camps for Muslims, saying the camps which reportedly hold a million ethnic Uighur people are a “great shame for humanity”.
Last week, rights activists urged European and Muslim nations to take the lead in establishing a UN investigation into China’s detention and “forced indoctrination” of up to one million Uighurs, who speak a Turkic language, and other Muslims in Xinjiang province.
“The policy of systematic assimilation against the Uighur Turks carried out by the authorities of China is a great shame for humanity,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement.
“It is no longer a secret that more than 1 million Uighur Turks incurring arbitrary arrests are subjected to torture and political brainwashing in internment camps and prisons,” Aksoy said.
Turkey’s response follows the death in detention of Uighur poet and musician Abdurehim Heyit, which Aksoy said was a tragedy that had “reinforced the reaction of the Turkish public opinion toward serious human rights violations committed in the Xinjiang region. We expect this legitimate response to be taken into account by the Chinese authorities.”
“On this occasion, we invite the Chinese authorities to respect the fundamental human rights of Uighur Turks and to close the internment camps,” he said.
China’s embassy in Ankara posted a lengthy response on its website that said Aksoy’s accusations were false and urged the government to retract them.
“Allegations that the Chinese government is attempting to ‘eliminate’ the ethnic, religious and cultural identity of Uighurs and other Muslims are completely groundless,” it said.
Beijing faces growing international pressure over its so-called “de-radicalization” program in its far western province.
Ankara called on the international community and the UN secretary general to take action.
China says it protects the religion and culture of its ethnic minorities and that security measures in Xinjiang are needed to counter groups that incite violence there.
This comes after human rights organizations, earlier this month, called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution establishing an international fact-finding mission to Xinjiang.
According to Human Rights Watch, during the next session of the Human Rights Council, from February 25 to March 22, 2019, the Council will consider the outcome report of China’s November 2018 Universal Periodic Review, at which Chinese officials denied allegations of grave human rights violations in Xinjiang.
“The magnitude of abuses allegedly occurring in Xinjiang demand uncompromising scrutiny from the Human Rights Council,” said Kenneth Roth, Executive Director at Human Rights Watch.
“The Human Rights Council’s integrity demands that states not allow China to hide behind its membership or economic might to escape accountability,” he said.
HRW has said that the Uighurs in these camps are subjected to forced political indoctrination, renunciation of their faith, mistreatment, and, in some cases, torture.
Numerous UN experts, treaty bodies, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights have expressed grave concern about the situation in Xinjiang and called for unrestricted access to the region.
HRW said China has not responded positively to these requests.
In addition to HRW, Amnesty International, the International Service for Human Rights, and the World Uighur Congress, all stood together to issue the statement – along with a broad range of organizations regionally and globally.
“The deterioration in human rights in the country is a long-standing concern, but this is a tipping point. No country in the world should be able to get away with arbitrarily detaining a million of its own people,” said Philip Lynch, Director of International Service for Human Rights.
“A resolution mandating a fact-finding mission is the bare minimum members of the Human Rights Council should do if they take their obligation to promote human rights seriously.”
“For too long Uighurs and other Muslims have suffered gross repression at the hands of Chinese authorities,” said Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uighur Congress. “We are now looking to the HRC to act – and get to the truth.”