Turkish lawmakers to visit China’s Uighur region

Zafer Üskül, the chairman of Parliament's Human Rights Committee

July 29, 2009, Wednesday/ 17:21:00
Turkish lawmakers are planning to visit China's autonomous Xinjiang region, the head of a parliamentary committee has said.

Zafer Üskül, the chairman of Parliament's Human Rights Committee, said parliament had contacted Chinese authorities seeking permission to send a team to Xinjiang, where ethnic rioting earlier this month left 197 people dead. Chinese officials said most of the dead were Han Chinese, while Uighur groups in exile say hundreds of Uighurs were killed by Han Chinese and Chinese forces.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had earlier angered China, saying the incidents “almost amounted to genocide.” However, Ankara has made it clear that it has no intention of intervening in China's internal affairs and that Turkey is committed to maintaining good ties with China.

"We are looking into the issue as a human rights matter; we will definitely not intervene in the internal affairs of China," Üskül told reporters on Monday in the southern province of Mersin. He added that a delegation of Turkish deputies would visit the autonomous region if the Chinese government permitted the visit.  He also said the deputies would be mindful of Turkish-Chinese relations if they visit China.

The Chinese government accuses overseas Uighur groups of provoking the incidents in Xinjiang. However, Uighurs living outside China often say the Chinese government pursued a policy of ethnic assimilation against Uighurs in Xinjiang. Muslim Uighurs share ethnic links with Turkey, and nationalist opposition parties have accused the government of not taking action to protect Uighurs in Xinjiang against Chinese oppression.

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