Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) is welcomed by a group of children in Beijing on Tuesday. Wang Zhao/ AFP
Chinese state media have said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told President Xi Jinping that ethnic minorities live happily in Xinjiang, in what would be a stark reversal of Ankara’s past criticism of Beijing’s crackdown in the region.
Erdogan met Xi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Tuesday, four months after the Turkish foreign ministry called the treatment of mostly Muslim Turkic-speaking Uighurs was “a great embarrassment for humanity.”
China has come under growing criticism over its security clampdown in the northwest region, where more than one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities are believed to be held in a network of internment camps.
Beijing denies forcibly holding people in what it describes as “vocational education centres” where “trainees” learn Mandarin and job skills in an effort to steer them away from religious extremism.
Muslim countries had been largely silent about China’s treatment of Uighurs until Turkey’s statement in February, but the official Xinhua news agency reported nicer words from Erdogan on Tuesday.
“Turkey stays committed to the one-China policy, Erdogan said, stressing that residents of various ethnicities living happily in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region thanks to China’s prosperity is a hard fact, and Turkey will not allow anyone to drive a wedge in its relations with China,” Xinhua reported.
“He also expressed the readiness to deepen political mutual trust and strengthen security cooperation with China in opposing extremism,” it added.
China on Monday defended its vast network of re-education camps in Xinjiang and said it would continue “training” residents, following explosive government document leaks detailing surveillance and control of the region’s Uighur population.
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