Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that the oppressed Uyghur Muslims of Xinjiang are in fact living happy lives, according to Chinese state media.
China has faced widespread criticism for its ongoing persecution of Uyghur and other Turkic minority Muslim in the north-western Xinjiang region.
The United Nations (UN) has estimated that at least one million Uyghur Muslims have been forcibly detained in “vocational re-education” camps, which Amnesty International has likened to “wartime concentration camps”.
Former Muslim inmates have stated that they were physically and mentally tortured into denouncing Islam and swearing allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party.
Turkey is the only Muslim-majority country that has previously voiced concerns about the situation in Xinjiang, including in February at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
However, during the meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing yesterday, President Erdogan displayed a more positive note.
According to a Chinese state media, the Turkish president said: “It is a fact that the peoples of China’s Xinjiang region live happily in China’s development and prosperity.
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“Turkey does not permit any person to incite disharmony in the Turkey-China relationship. Turkey firmly opposes extremism and is willing to increase mutual political trust with China and strengthen security cooperation.”
The report added that President Xi Jinping told Erdogan that the two countries should take steps to promote joint counter-terrorism operations.
Beijing has particularly welcomed President Erdogan’s comments, stating that he will not allow “any forces to carry out anti-China activities in Turkey and attaches great store on Turkey stressing many times its support of China fighting terrorism.”
Neither the Turkish government nor the President’s office have denied the statements attributed to Mr Erdogan by Chinese media.
China had consistently denied the existence of the camps until last October, and has since claimed it is detaining people guilty of minor crimes, which has supposedly brought stability and minimised violence in Xinjiang.