Published: Tue, February 12, 2019
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Uighur musician Abdurehim Heyit is alive, says China's state-run television

Uighur musician Abdurehim Heyit is alive, says China's state-run television

While Turkey and China broadly have good relations, Aksoy said he was responding to the death of Heyit in a Chinese jail. China has interned an estimated 1 million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in re-education camps, where they are forced to renounce Islam and swear fealty to ruling Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.

Since the 1990s, Uighur groups have tried to regain independence for East Turkestan, which China has vehemently quashed.

Chinese Kazakhs have also fled overseas to avoid arbitrary detention, and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on Monday said it was following the case of a one such man who had been fighting attempts by Beijing to return him to China from neighboring Uzbekistan.

The Chinese embassy's response followed the Turkish Foreign Ministry's allegation of the death of a Uygur man in a vocational center.

"The re-emergence of concentration camps in the 21st century and China's systematic assimilation policy toward Uighur Turks are great embarrassment for humanity", Aksoy said.

Former detainees have recounted human-rights abuses inside the facilities, such as torture, drugging, and rape.

"We expect information on these issues", the source said. Heyit was a master of the dutar, a type of two-stringed instrument with a long neck that is found in Iran and throughout Central Asia.

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His detention was considered indicative of China's determination to crack down on Uyghur intellectuals and cultural figures, which some say are attempts at cultural cleansing. Heyit's death could not be independently confirmed.

China's embassy in Ankara posted a lengthy response on its website that said Aksoy's accusations were false and urged the government to retract them. "We are opposed to maintaining double standards on the question of fighting terrorism", it added, in a thinly-veiled reference to Turkey's campaign against Kurdish militant groups in Syria.

She told a daily briefing that the Turkish side had "made a very bad mistake which is quite irresponsible", the AP reported.

Beijing has intensified its clampdown on what it labels terrorism in the region, following a 2009 riot in Xinjiang capital Urumqi that killed hundreds. Analysts say many fear political and economic retaliation from China.

China denied the existence of the so-called "re-education" facilities for months before saying they were in fact vocational training centres created to combat religious extremism, and has increasingly been on the front foot in defending its actions.

On Saturday, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy released a statement condemning the "torture and political brainwashing" allegedly committed by the Chinese government while "systematically assimilating" the country's minority Muslim population.

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