China Targets Foreign Nationals of Uighur Origin

WASHINGTON – Chinese authorities are continuing to detain foreign nationals of Uighur descent, which experts charge is part of an effort by Beijing to prevent any outside access to Xinjiang province.

VOA interviewed several ethnic Uighurs of different nationalities who said they or their family members faced detention upon arriving in China. The detained foreign citizens were allegedly jailed, put under house arrest or even sent to the so-called reeducation camps, while some others were repatriated to their home countries.

Hankiz Kurban, a Turkish citizen from Istanbul, told VOA that her parents, Yahya Kurban, 54, and Amina Kurban, 51, both Turkish citizens originating from the region of Xingjian, have been detained since Sept.11, 2017, when they were on a trip to operate a clothing business in Urumchi, the capital city of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

I received my mother’s voice message asking me, in a trembling voice, to contact the Turkish embassy in Beijing and do something for them, Hankiz said, recalling the moment Chinese authorities arrested her. It was the last day I heard from my parents.

Working on release

Kurban and her siblings have attempted to find their parents to no avail. The Turkish embassy has told them officials there are still working with Chinese officials to secure the parents’ release.

Another Turkish citizen of Uighur origin, Muyesser Temel, told VOA that her brother, Mehmet Emin Nasir, 40, was arrested in late 2017 in Kashgar, where he owned a Turkish curtains store.

We kept calling [the] Turkish Embassy in Beijing, Turkish Foreign Ministry in Ankara, and Turkish Presidential Office. Their answer has been, ‘Wait, we are working on this case,’ Temel said.

VOA contacted Turkey’s foreign ministry and embassy in Beijing but has not received a comment.

Responding to a parliamentary question regarding incarcerated Turkish citizens in China, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu last April said his government was using its diplomatic means in every level to bring them home.

The problems faced by our citizens around the world and the complaints received in this context are closely monitored through our foreign representatives. Every diplomatic and legal tool is used in order to solve their problems, and the necessary legal, economic and social support is provided to our citizens, Cavusoglu said in a written response.

Uighurs are ethnically Turkic and religiously Muslim with a worldwide population estimated to be 12 million. More than 90% of them are believed to live in their ancestral home of Xinjiang in China’s northwest region. The remaining Uighurs reside in neighboring central Asian states like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan as well as Turkey and Western countries.

Source : Voice of America