China rejects Turkey criticism on Uighurs, denies poet died

Leroy Wright
February 12, 2019

Turkey slammed China for its "systematic assimilation policy towards Uighur Turks", labelling it a "great embarrassment for humanity" while urging Beijing to shut down the "concentration camps".

China has declared that claims from the Turkish government that a famed Uighur poet and musician was tortured to death inside of a Chinese "concentration camp" are "ridiculous lies", providing a video clip to "prove" that the man in question is still alive.

"We've learned with great sorrow that dignified poet Abdurehim Heyit, who was sentenced to eight years in prison for his compositions, died in the second year of his imprisonment".

China has expressed its protest over the Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy's claims that Chinese Uyghur "re-education camps" were "internment camps", the Chinese Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman said on Monday. Aksoy called upon the global community and the United Nations chief to take "effective measures" to end the "human tragedy" in China. "I'm in the process of being investigated for allegedly violating the national laws".

More than 1 million Uighurs are believed to have been held in "re-education camps", where they face psychological indoctrination in questionable conditions.

The musician was rumoured to have died on the weekend which prompted Turkey to put out a statement condemning the mass detention of Uighurs in China's far-western region of Xinjiang.

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But in a video that appeared today, a man - purported to be Mr Heyit - is seen rocking slightly from side to side, wearing a white and black sweater and delivering a short statement against a drab grey background.

The northwest Xinjiang region of China, where most Uighurs live, has been under heavy police surveillance in recent years, after violent inter-ethnic tensions. He gives the date of the video and says he has "never been abused".

"Even if it is the case that he is alive and that China seems to be scoring a point [by] calling out Turkey ... then that should not obscure the fact that he's being held incommunicado, which itself encourages these kind of rumours flying around."
"We hope the relevant Turkish persons can distinguish between right and wrong and correct their mistakes", said Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China's foreign ministry.

Worldwide rights groups say China routinely coerces detainees into making videotaped confessions which are then broadcast through state media to serve the government's propaganda objectives.

China denied the existence of the so-called "re-education" facilities for months before saying they were in fact vocational training centres created to combat religious extremism, and has increasingly been on the front foot in defending its actions.

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