Tuesday, July 14, 2009

China demands Turkish retraction !

Uighur women and soldiers in Urumqi, 14 July
There is still a heavy military presence on the streets of Urumqi

China has demanded that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan retract his accusation that Beijing practised genocide against ethnic Uighurs.

Mr Erdogan made the claim after riots in the Uighur heartland of Xinjiang during which 184 people were killed.

Separately, more than 100 Chinese writers and intellectuals have signed a letter calling for the release of Ilham Tohti, an outspoken Uighur economist.

Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi, is under heavy police and military control.

China's rejection of Mr Erdogan's remarks came in an editorial headlined "Don't twist facts" in the English-language newspaper China Daily.

It said the fact that 137 of the 184 victims were Han Chinese "speaks volumes for the nature of the event".

The newspaper urged Mr Erdogan to "take back his remarks... which constitute interference in China's internal affairs", describing his genocide comments as "irresponsible and groundless."

Mr Erdogan made the controversial comments last Friday, telling NTV television: "The incidents in China are, simply put, a genocide. There's no point in interpreting this otherwise."

He had called on Chinese authorities to intervene to prevent more deaths.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told his Turkish counterpart by telephone on Sunday that the Urumqi riots were a grave crime orchestrated by the "three evil forces", state news agency Xinhua said, referring to "extremism, separatism and terrorism".

Mr Tohti disappeared from his Beijing home last week and has apparently been detained.

"Professor Ilham Tohti is a Uighur intellectual who devoted himself to friendship between ethnic groups and eradicating conflicts between them. He should not be taken as a criminal," said the intellectuals' letter.

It was posted online on Monday, and demands information about his case.

"If they've started legal proceedings toward Ilham Tohti, [the authorities] must gain trust from the people through transparency, and especially gain trust from the Uighur people," the letter said.

It also said that Mr Tohti's website, Uighurbiz.cn, was an important site for dialogue between Han Chinese and Uighurs.

In a televised speech on 6 July, Xinjiang governor Nur Bekri accused the site of helping "to orchestrate the incitement and spread propaganda".

The letter also urged the Chinese government to reflect on whether its own mistakes caused the unrest in Xinjiang and the anti-government riots last year in and around Tibet.

The violence in Xinjiang began on 5 July, during a protest by Uighurs over a brawl in southern China in late June in which two people were killed.




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