Turkey should restrain anti-China protests
Following a protest in Istanbul on Saturday against the alleged “mistreatment ofMuslim Uygur people in China”, China’s embassy in the Turkish capital Ankara has warned its residents traveling in the country to be careful and stay away from the protestors. A group of Korean tourists were reportedly mistaken as Chinese and attacked by the protesters outside the Topkapi Palace.
The anti-China protests are believed to be linked with someWestern media’s reports that the Chinese government had restrictedMuslim Uygurs, the majority of whom live in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, from praying and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.
Although the reports were false, they went viral on some social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter when Ramadan began on June 18, leading to online accusations of China restricting ordinaryMuslims from observing Ramadan.
But the truth is, the Xinjiang government convened a special meeting to ensureMuslim people’s religious activities during Ramadan were not disturbed. China’s ForeignMinistry also asked Chinese tourists to respect religious customs when traveling inMuslim countries in the same month.
Another important fact should also be noted. Six years ago on July 5 the riots inUrumqi of Xinjiang left 197 dead. It should not come as a surprise that some extremists in Turkey would choose the day to generate chaos and vent their anger towards innocent Chinese citizens, especially when the reports about China’s “restrictions” emerged.
The allegations were either malicious rumors or a vicious attempt to spoil China’s national solidarity and tarnish its image. They might also have been intended to serve as a convenient excuse for some extremists to use violence, in a bid to hamper China’s Belt and Road Initiative from entering Islamic states such as Pakistan.
China is home to at least 23 millionMuslims nationwide, most of whom belong to theHui and Uygur ethnic groups.
WhileMuslims in other regions ofChinahadtheir traditional fasting duringRamadan, itwouldbe hardly convincing that Xinjiangwasselected out tobantraditional religious practices.
Moreover, asmany observershave noticed, Turkey’s domestic politicshave a lot todowith the recent unrest in Istanbul. Turkey isnowundergoing a rise in nationalism, which has helped the radicalNationalistMovementPartybecomethe thirdplaced The author is a professor at the College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University. party in the legislative elections in June.
Adopting a conservative religious approach, the ruling JusticeandDevelopmentParty is largely responsible for the rise of the radical religious sentimentsandtheNMP, which is suspected of being thekey organizer of Istanbul’s anti-China protests.
Although it claimed to forbid the over 200,000Chinese Uygurs inTurkey from participating in anti-China activities, the Turkish government turned a blind eye to them. This will create fissures in theChina-Turkey relationship that has remained stableandhealthy over the past years.
Being members of the G20, both countries have pursued close cooperation in global and regional governance. Turkey became a dialogue partner of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization two years ago, and confirmed the purchase of China’sHQ-9 air defense missile system inMarch. Also, high-level exchanges will be brought to a newheight in this year.
The Turkish government should not sit idle as anti-China extremists take to streets in Turkey. The bilateral relations should not be held hostage to ill-intentioned rumors. The author is president of blshe.com and an expert in international relations studies.