Christina Lin

Turkey challenges China’s sovereignty over Xinjiang

Turkey is challenging China’s sovereignty and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s “One China Policy” over its territory.

On 29 June, Turkey’s foreign ministry issued a statement to condemn China’s domestic policy regarding a ban on fasting during Ramadan for government employees, as well as teachers and students in public schools.

The policy applies all across China, affecting 20 some million Chinese Muslims, with majority of the 10 million Uyghur Muslims residing in Xinjiang while the 11 million Hui—Han Chinese that are Muslims—are largely concentrated in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in central China.

However, the AKP regime only mentioned the Uyghurs and not the Hui in what it views as China’s anti-Muslim policies.

It also fails to mention China is an atheistic country and only bans fasting if they work for the Chinese government and government-run institutions, not in general. AKP thus appears to be misrepresenting Chinese domestic policy and attempting to de-legitimize Chinese sovereignty over Xinjiang.

China has made no secret of its atheistic stance, and is indifferent to what people do in private as far as religious observances are concerned, whether it’s Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and the like.

Moreover, it is a well-known criterion that all Communist Party members or civil servants not profess any religion, and the fasting ban is to reinforce existing membership regulation. If an individual chooses not to adhere to this discipline, that individual is free to depart and seek employment outside of public service, whether in Xinjiang, Ningxia or elsewhere in China.

However, on Tuesday Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu made it a Xinjiang issue and declared “it is very natural for us to react against a human rights violation there when it happens,” and now seeks to wage legal warfare, or “lawfare” to delegitimize Chinese sovereignty with a UN referral.

Cavusoglu warned, “This issue needs to be handled bilaterally and internationally. We will bring this issue before the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and other international organizations.”

He further proclaimed that Turkey closely follows the Uyghur issue, echoing an August 2014 state-run Anadolu Agency article that challenges Chinese sovereignty over Xinjiang territory and that “East Turkestan issue is under Turkey’s responsibility,” not China.

Turkey’s Erzincan Bar Association President Cemalettin Ozer has applied to the UN Human Rights Council, and wants to investigate whether Muslim Uyghurs enjoy freedom of expression and thought, religious liberty, the right to assembly, equality before law, among other rights.

However, looking at the laundry list, it appears Turkey perhaps may be a more solid candidate than China for UN investigation of human rights violation.

On freedom of assembly, this week Turkish police violated this right when it broke up the annual gay pride parade in Istanbul with water cannons and rubber bullets.

On freedom of expression and thought, Turkey violates this right as it continues to jail journalists and censor the media.

On equality before law, according to an International Crisis Group report, Turkey continues to deny Kurds equal rights in language use, local governance, identity and political representation.

As for AKP mouthpiece Daily Sabah accusing China of waging cultural genocide, former US Congressman Bob Filner has equally accused Turkey of waging a “cultural genocide” against the Kurds.

And while World Uighur Congress vice president Seyit Tumturk announced a commemoration on 5 July to mark the 6th anniversary of the “Urumqi massacre,” is he referring to the 46 Uyghur Chinese or also including the 137 Han Chinese killed out of the total 184 casualties?

Erdogan had accused the Chinese of committing genocide in the 2009 Xinjiang riot, yet last year Ankara sided with ISIS in committing genocide against the Kobani Kurds, until US airpower intervened to stop it.

Even now it is supporting Al Qaeda, al Nusrah, and other terrorists in Syria that regularly massacre ethnic and religious minorities such as Christians, Druze, Alawites, Kurds, Shiites as well as other Sunni Muslims. There have also been reports of Ankara’s complicity in allowing Chinese Uyghurs to be recruited via thousands of fake Turkish passports as cannon fodder for the anti-Assad force in Syria.

And if Turkey’s accusation of China being anti-Islam were true, then according to a Times article, why are Chinese Muslims enjoying a faith revival? 

It is an open secret that Erdogan supports Xinjiang secession to become an independent East Turkestan “under Turkey’s responsibility,” similar to attempts of installing pliant Muslim Brotherhood regimes in Syria and Libya under Ankara’s “neo-Ottoman” sphere of influence.

However, Ankara should then brace itself for Chines support for an independent Kurdistan, since the Chinese had previously warned that, “if you touch the Uyghurs, we will touch the PKK.”

Despite lack of official support, the Chinese secret service has traditionally supported the PKK and Barzani-Talabani movements in northern Iraq.

Perhaps, on this occasion it may be prudent for Turkey to stand down on its UN referral, and take out the plank in its own eye before pointing to the speck in China’s eye.

About the Author
Dr. Christina Lin is a US-based foreign policy analyst specializing in China-Mediterranean relations. She has extensive US government experience working on national security issues and was a CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) research consultant for Jane's Information Group.
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