Image: From recent protest in Brussels against China’s re-education camps for Uyghurs (AFP)
The government of Turkey has strongly condemned China’s treatment of Uyghurs in an official statement on February 9, and noted in particular the reported death of folk poet Abdurehim Heyit in prison. Beijing responded to the latter by producing a video of a pale but very much alive Heyit saying he is in good health, but is being investigated “for allegedly violating national laws.”
Here is the full statement on the Turkish government website:
Practices violating the fundamental human rights of Uighur Turks and other Muslim communities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region have worsened, especially during the last two years, and have been brought to the agenda of the international community.
In particular, the official declaration of the “Sinification of All Religions and Beliefs” policy in October 2017 was another step towards the goal of eliminating the ethnic, religious and cultural identities of the Uighur Turks and other Muslim communities in the region.
It is no longer a secret that more than one million Uighur Turks incurring arbitrary arrests are subjected to torture and political brainwashing in internment camps and prisons. Uighurs who are not detained in these camps are under heavy pressure.
Our kinsmen and citizens of Uighur origin living abroad cannot get news from their relatives in the region. Thousands of children have been removed from their parents and became orphans.
The reintroduction of internment camps in the XXIst century and the policy of systematic assimilation against the Uighur Turks carried out by the authorities of China is a great shame for humanity.
We expressed our views on the tragedy in the Xinjiang region to the Chinese authorities at all levels.
In such an environment, we have learned with deep sorrow the passing away in his second year of imprisonment of the distinguished folk poet Abdurehim Heyit, who was sentenced to eight years in prison for one of his songs. 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.
On this occasion, we invite the Chinese authorities to respect the fundamental human rights of Uighur Turks and to close the internment camps.
We call on the international community and the Secretary General of the United Nations to take effective measures in order to bring to an end this human tragedy in Xinjiang.
China Radio International’s Turkish arm released a proof-of-life video — see this BBC report with video, or just watch it here:
Abdurrehim Heyit ölmedi, Türkiye Dışişleri’nin #Xinjiang iddiaları asılsız. Abdurrehim Heyit’in sağlık durumunun iyi olduğu açıklandı. https://t.co/cqmcyeVS2s @TC_Disisleri @TurkEmbBeijing @anadoluajansi @trthaber @ntv @cnnturk @Hurriyet @Postacomtr #AbdurrehimHeyit pic.twitter.com/hFryakReEr
— CRI Türkçe (@CRI_Turkish) February 10, 2019
The style of the video is similar to the series of “confessions” of unconvicted people accused of nebulous crimes produced by state broadcaster CCTV over the last six years. China Radio International is a separately managed organization. As far as I know, this is China Radio International’s first foray into forced confessional reality TV.
Reporting and commentary:
- Turkey urges China to respect Uighur rights, close camps / AP
- Turkey hits China hard over Uyghur. Why now? / Hürriyet Daily News
- China pushes back against Turkey’s criticism of its Uighur detentions / WSJ (paywall)
- China rejects Turkey criticism on Uighurs, denies poet’s death / Al Jazeera
- If you are tracking this story closely, follow Darren Byler, Jim Millward, Rian Thum, and Adrian Zenz on Twitter for regular updates.
- Also follow Byler’s writing about Xinjiang for SupChina. Here is the latest from his monthly column: