An extradition treaty between Turkey and China signed in 2017 and ratified by the Chinese is troubling refugees in Turkey.
Thousands of Uyghurs refugees live in Turkey. China’s persecution of Uyghurs is not recent. It started in the 1950s when thousands flee China to find sanctuary in Turkey.
They share a common linguistic, cultural and religious heritage with the Turkish people. An estimated 50,000 Uyghurs are believed to reside in Turkey.
Now, some experts say the Uyghur community there could be in jeopardy because of the agreement reached between the two countries.
The refugees got worried after the Dec 26 ratification of the treaty between Turkey and China by the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Congress.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Beijing to attend the Belt and Road Initiative Forum in 2017 when the treaty was signed.
Reports say there are very few Turkish nationals detained in China and there are barely any Turkish refugees there.
However, once Turkey ratifies the treaty, it will be forced to send the Uyghurs back to China.
And China is not sparing any efforts to woo the Turkish government and politicians.
The China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification is playing a prominent role in Turkey.
It has a Turkey chapter called the China Peaceful Unification Association or CPUA.
CPUA supports the CCP’s policies in Xinjiang and denounces the promulgation of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act by the U.S. legislature.
China is also pushing forward with its ‘pandemic diplomacy’ and in Turkey, it is focused on Istanbul.
Istanbul is Turkey’s economic and logistical pivot and home to most of Turkey’s Uyghurs.
Early in the pandemic, CPUA donated medical face masks to Istanbul’s Maltepe and Beşiktaş districts and to its municipal government, says VOA.
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VOA says China has been cultivating ties with Istanbul’s mayor, Ekrem İmamoğlu.
The latter took office in April 2019 and over the past few years, these influence efforts have seen tangible results.
Since then, Istanbul city has installed Chinese translations on main public transport stations. Istanbul’s airport was declared the world’s first “China-friendly airport.”
İmamoğlu and the Istanbul provincial governor Ali Yerlikaya also sent congratulatory notes to the PRC consulate on China’s national day in 2020.
China also made donations to Imamoğlu’s office in July 2020 on the eve of the Eid El Adha.
China is also trying to show a smiling and friendly face to the refugees and the Xinjiang Muslims in Turkey.
They send out messages during Ramadhan and Eid, practices declared illegal in Xinjiang.
After China pledged shipments of Sinovac to Turkey,
Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s said Turkey opposes “all forms of terrorism.”
Not only that. It will not allow anyone to “damage China’s sovereignty or territorial integrity.”
Jamestown Foundation says days before the shipment of vaccines, China ratified the extradition treaty.
Turkey is yet to ratify the treaty. And although the treaty stipulates the prevention of political, ethnic or religious persecution—human rights advocate fears that it could be used to target the Uyghur diaspora.
The treaty enables extradition for behaviour considered illegal in one of the two countries.