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Turks outraged by reports of Ramadan ban in China

A protest outside the Chinese embassy in Istanbul on Sunday [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 July, 2015

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Ties between China and Turkey are strained as demonstrators took to the streets of Turkish cities to protest against China’s reported ban on its ethnic Muslim minority fasting during Ramadan.
Anti-Chinese demonstrations have taken across Turkey since Turkish media carried reports early last week that China had banned its Uighur minority from fasting or otherwise celebrating Ramadan.

The protests have fueled a growing diplomatic spat between Turkey and China over China’s treatment of its Muslim Turkic-speaking Uighur minority in its western Xinjiang province, and the reported ban.

China has denied it restricts religious freedom.

"You should know that all the people of Xinjiang enjoy the freedom of religious belief accorded to them by the Chinese constitution," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, according to Reuters.

However according to Reuters, state media in Xinjiang published articles and notices last month calling on party members, civil servants, students and teachers to refrain from fasting during Ramadan.

All the people of Xinjiang enjoy the freedom of religious belief accorded them by the Chinese constitution.
-Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman
Uighurs have long complained of cultural and religious repression under Chinese rule.

They have played a prominent role in the separatist movement in Xinjiang, which calls for the province to become an independent state called “East Turkestan”.

Ethnic violence in the region has left hundreds of people dead over the past two years. Beijing has blamed religious extremism for the violence.

Turkey also calls China’s Xinjiang “East Turkestan”.

Protests and attacks

Hundreds marched in Istanbul on Saturday in protest against China's treatment of its minority Muslim Uighur community, carrying flags representing the Uighurs' homeland and calling for a boycott of Chinese goods.

The demonstration was peaceful but the Dogan news agency said a group of nationalists tried to attack a group of Korean tourists which they mistook for Chinese nationals. Police rescued the tourists.

On Friday, Beijing let it be known it was displeased that Turkey accepted 173 ethnic Uighurs who fled China.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said the Uighurs had left China illegally, and that Beijing opposes "any actions that aid and abet, or even support illegal migration."

The group of Uighurs, mostly women and children, arrived in Istanbul on Tuesday and are being settled in the central city of Kayseri, which has a strong Uighur community.

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