ISTANBUL (Hurriyet)—The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday dismissed Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s accusations that genocide was being committed in China’s Muslim region of Xinjiang, where ethnic violence has left at least 184 dead
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said on Tuesday the accusation of genocide simply did not make sense.
Turkey, for its part, vehemently denies its own genocide against the Armenian people in which the Ottoman Turkish government systematically annihilated 1.5 million Armenians from their historic homeland from 1915-1923.
Most people who died in the riots were Han and over the past few decades the Uighur population in Xinjiang had increased sharply, he added.
“In which country could this be called genocide?” Qin was quoted by Reuters as saying at a regular news briefing.
“We hope that our Muslim brothers can realize the truth of the July 5 incident in Urumqi. Once they know the truth, they would support our ethnic and religious policies and the measures the Chinese government has taken to deal with the incident,” he added.
Erdogan, whose country shares ethnic and cultural bonds with the Turkic-speaking Uighurs, is the most vocal foreign leader to criticize China’s actions in Xinjiang. He said last week that “the incidents in China are, simply put, a genocide, and there’s no point in interpreting this otherwise.” He called on Chinese authorities to intervene to prevent more deaths.
The July 5 violence began when Uighurs protesting last month’s deaths of fellow factory workers in a brawl in southern China clashed with police. Crowds scattered throughout the city, attacking ethnic Han Chinese and burning cars.
Of the 184 reported killed, the government has said 137 were Han Chinese and 46 were Uighurs, along with one minority Hui Muslim. Uighurs say they believe many more from their ethnic group died in the government crackdown, in which more than 1,600 people were also wounded and 1,000 detained.
The Uighurs, who number 9 million in Xinjiang, have complained about an influx of Han Chinese and government restrictions on their Muslim religion. They accuse the Han of discrimination and the Communist Party of trying to erase their language and culture.
China’s state media also urged Erdogan on Tuesday to recant his remarks regarding the incidents in Xinjiang.
In an editorial headlined “Don’t twist facts,” the English-language China Daily said Erdogan’s description of the violence that has blighted the remote northwest region “as ‘a kind of genocide’ is an irresponsible and groundless accusation.”
“The fact that 137 of the 184 persons killed in the riots are Han Chinese speaks volumes for the nature of the event,” the paper added.
The China Daily said the Turkish prime minister’s remarks constituted “interference in China’s internal affairs” and they are the “last thing the Uygur and Han Chinese would find helpful when they are looking forward to lasting peace.”
“Chinese leaders are the last people who want to see happenings like these in the largest ethnic autonomous region,” it added.
Erdogan had earlier said Turkey would grant a visas to exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer, who is based in the United States. Kadeer told Turkish television that Turkish authorities had twice denied her visa application to visit the country. China has blamed the ethnic unrest on exiled Uighur separatists, especially Kadeer, who denies the charge.
The Chinese violence has sparked almost daily protests in Turkey, mostly outside heavily guarded Chinese diplomatic missions in Istanbul and Ankara.
Turkish Industry Minister Nihat Ergun has called on Turks to stop buying Chinese goods although the government itself has no plans for an official boycott.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has called his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi and conveyed Turkey’s concerns. The Chinese foreign minister told Davutoğlu over the phone on Sunday that the Urumqi riots were a grave crime orchestrated by the “three evil forces,” state news agency Xinhua said, referring to “extremism, separatism and terrorism.”