'Great cause of shame for humanity': Turkey attacks China over Uighur minority treatment

10 February 2019, 13:27 | Updated: 10 February 2019, 20:31

Turkey has hit out at China for how it treats the minority Uighurs, saying it is a "great cause of shame for humanity".

A Turkish official said more than a million have been detained in Chinese "concentration camps" and it is "no longer a secret".

Beijing has admitted sites exist but calls them vocational training centres and has not said how many people are there.

A security clampdown by the Chinese on Uighurs in the northwestern region of Xinjiang implemented after a 2009 riot has intensified.

Many Uighurs have fled, including to Turkey, where the language and culture are similar to that in Xinjiang.

Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy claimed the Turkic Muslim population faced pressure and "systematic assimilation" in western China.

And China's actions have been seen by some critics as an attempt to eradicate the separate Uighur language and identity.

Turkey has urged authorities to close detention facilities and respect human rights, added Mr Aksoy.

He also said his country had learned of the death of one of the most high-profile inmates Abdurehim Heyit.

The Uighur musician and poet, who played the dutar two-string instrument, had been serving eight years in jail over one of his songs.

His death has not been independently confirmed.

But his detention was seen as highlighting China's determination to crack down on Uighur intellectuals and cultural figures.

Mr Aksoy said: "This tragedy has further reinforced the reaction of the Turkish public opinion towards serious human rights violations committed in the Xinjiang region.

"We expect this legitimate response to be taken into account by the Chinese authorities.

"We respectfully commemorate Abdurehim Heyit and all our kinsmen who lost their lives defending their Turkish and Muslim identity."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had once accused China of "genocide" but has since established closer diplomatic and economic relations with Beijing.