China rejects Turkey criticism on Uighur detentions; denies poet Abdurehim Heyit died

Blanche Robertson
February 12, 2019

"We are aware of a number of cases where family and friends in Australia are unable to contact individuals who have travelled to Xinjiang", they said in a statement.

An ABC investigation found that these camps span more than 2 million square metres, housing detainees forced to pledge their allegiance to the Chinese state under duress. Turkish media claimed he was tortured to death in a so-called re-education camp in China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

Rights groups say Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities are being detained indefinitely without charge for infractions like refusing to give a DNA sample, speaking in a minority language, or arguing with officials.

China denied the existence of the so-called "de-radicalisation" facilities for months before saying they were, in fact, vocational training centres created to combat extremism. Surveillance cameras, security checkpoints and riot police have become ubiquitous in Xinjiang in recent years, but the government maintains that such measures are necessary to combat separatist violence and latent religious extremism.

"This is a big deal: [Turkey is] The first Muslim-majority country to criticize China so directly for its horrendous treatment of Uighur Muslims, and one of the most powerful Muslim-majority countries at that", Kenneth Roth, the head of Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter. Turkey depends on Chinese financing for major infrastructure projects, while China sees Turkey as an important link in its gargantuan Belt and Road project to expand its economic reach overseas.

Chinese authorities released a video on Sunday "confirming" Uighur poet and musician Abdurehim Heyit is still alive-something on which global experts still maintain uncertainty.

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Hua on Monday called Turkey's statement "a very bad mistake". "China then released a video message from Heyit saying he was in good health and in the custody of authorities after 'allegedly violating national laws".

Wearing a black and white sweater over a collared shirt, he said he was in "good health" and has "never been abused", according to the subtitles.

The Daily Telegraph was unable to confirm whether the video was authentic.

"Both China and Turkey face the arduous task of fighting terrorism".

Although the Chinese government admits that such centers exist, it says that they are there to provide job and language training while stamping out "extremist elements". On Twitter, Uighurs overseas posted photos of themselves holding up images of their missing parents, children and siblings.

Halemubieke had filmed a video from inside the transit zone at the airport in Uzbekistan's capital, pleading for help, saying the Chinese Embassy there wanted him sent back to China.

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