Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday warned the Turkish public over provocations and exploitation of the Uighur issue which has sparked outrage among the Turkish people against China since the Muslim holy month Ramadan began last month.
When speaking during a breaking fast dinner (iftar) on Thursday in Ankara, Erdogan warned the Turkish public against some “exaggerated” or “fabricated” news stories which were recently published, particularly on the social media blogs, regarding the Chinese oppression of the Muslim Uighur community in China’s Xinjiang autonomous region.
After he reiterated Turkey’s cordial support for Uighur people, whose religious and cultural rights have been allegedly suppressed and violated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule, Erdogan called Turkish people to be prudent considering the Uighur problem in the People’s Republic of China.
“The falsified news and pictures regarding the Uighur Turks published on several Turkish media sources and Twitter are provocative and fabricated, which led to several attacks against our Eastern Asian friends who have come to Turkey as our guests,” Erdogan said, according to Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah that quoted his iftar remarks.
“We strongly disapprove those violent attacks. I call upon the whole nation to not be fooled by those provocations," he added.
As the Turkish public angered by the allegations that China was oppressing the Turkic Uighurs in Xinjiang, several Turkish demonstrators had attempted to attack on some Asian tourists in one of Istanbul’s tourist attraction places as they supposedly thought that those tourists were coming from China.
The Turkish president is scheduled to officially visit China on July 28 in order to make an invitation to the Chinese President Xi Jinping for the G20 summit which will be held in Antalya in the upcoming November.
Erdogan implied that the increasing tension and timing of the protests against China would be provocative ahead of his planned trip to Beijing.
"I want to point out that many of those pictures are exaggerated and false. I also find it noteworthy that those provocations came just before my official trip to China on 28th of July,” Erdogan said.
Turkey’s opposition parties have long been using the Uighur issue as a nationalist blow against the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government in the past several years.
The nationalist political opposition in Turkey, foremost represented by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), blamed Erdogan and the cabinet led-by the current Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of excessively focusing on the humanitarian crises in Syria and Egypt by dismissing the problems like the Uighur issue in the Turkic world.
But, both Erdogan and Davutoglu have several times expressed that the Turkish government must equilibrate the relations between Ankara and Beijing, which have long been affected by the ethno-religious tensions in Xinjiang.
Erdogan stated that Turkey was closely watching the Chinese acts towards Turkic-Muslim community in Xinjiang where human rights violations and ban on religious liberties have recently raised Ankara’s concerns.
He added that he would express Turkey’s sensitivities on the Uighur issue to the Chinese leadership when he visits Beijing at the end of the month.
The CCP had previously issued orders considering the religious practices and social appearance in the public sphere in Muslim populated areas by warning employees and students not to fast during Ramadan.
The party had also restricted men from having long beards whereas it extended in January to women wearing of burqas in public places.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry conveyed its “deep concerns” to the Chinese ambassador to Ankara last week following the reports that Beijing has banned Ramadan fasting in certain parts of Xinjiang.
Xinjiang autonomous region, which is called as “East Turkestan” by Uighurs themselves, consists of nearly 45 percent of Turkic-Muslim Uighurs while ethnically Han Chinese makes up almost 40 percent of the region’s total population.
The Chinese constitution asserts that ethnic and religious minorities in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) would be equal before the law, but in practice China has long been criticised by the rights groups and international organisations for its human rights violations regarding the ethnic and religious freedom.
Human rights groups, including the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have frequently reported that Beijing is not allowing religious freedom and ethnic liberties as well as basic human rights in ethno-religious minority regions.
The PRC has long been suffering from ethnic separatist causes in Tibet and Xinjiang in the west and to some extent in Inner Mongolia in the north.
Chinese authorities have tightened their grip in Xinjiang in the wake of increasing terror attacks, which were mainly attributed to the Muslim Uighurs by the CCP governance.
Hundreds of people have been reportedly killed during the unrests in Xinjiang in the past several years, where China's repressive policies, including controls on religion and Uighur culture, have been intensified by China’s party-government.