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China Rejects Turkey’s Criticism on Uighurs, Denies Poet’s Death

Uighurs living in Turkey and Turkish supporters, chant slogans before burning a Chinese flag, July 5, 2015.
Uighurs living in Turkey and Turkish supporters, chant slogans before burning a Chinese flag, July 5, 2015.

China has rejected Turkey’s criticism of Beijing's treatment of Uighurs and also denied that Uighur poet and musician has died.

China Radio International's Turkish language service released a 26-second video online late Sunday, showing a man said to be Abdurehim Heyit stating that he was in “good health.”

"Today is February 10, 2019," the man said. "I am in the process of being investigated for allegedly violating the national laws. I'm now in good health and have never been abused."

The authenticity of the video has not been independently confirmed.

On Saturday, Turkey called on China to close facilities it called 'concentration camps' for a reported one million ethnic Uighurs, declaring them a "great shame for humanity".

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement, "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."

The Turkish statement followed reports of the alleged death of Uighur poet and musician Abdurehim Heyit who was held in one of the camps in China's Xinjiang province.

Sixteen leading global human rights organizations have called for an international investigation into China's mass incarceration of the Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang province. The groups urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution establishing an international fact-finding mission to Xinjiang.

Kumi Naidoo, the secretary general of Amnesty International, called Xinjiang an outdoor prison. He said it is a place of high-tech surveillance, political indoctrination, forced cultural assimilation, arbitrary arrests and disappearances.

“So large is the number of people detained, that the government had to open up orphanages to take in the children of families whose parents were being re-educated," Naidoo said. "Yet, China continues to obfuscate and deny access to the region to independent observers, despite repeated requests by the United Nations and others.”

Naidoo said China must be held accountable for its repressive actions. He said member states must act by mandating the U.N. to investigate the situation. Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said he agrees. Given the scale of the atrocities being committed by China, Roth said the muted global outcry is deeply regrettable.

“People worldwide were rightly outraged by (U.S. President Donald) Trump’s Muslim travel ban," Roth said, "but when China forces one million Muslims to renounce Islam on pain of endless detention, the response has largely been ho-hum.”

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