Tur­key should re­strain anti-China protests

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

WANG XIAOYING /CHINA DAILY

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