Turkey urged to lead investigation into Chinese 'Muslim persecution'
Human Rights Watch has called on Turkey to lead a UN fact-finding mission in Xinjiang, where over one million Chinese Muslims are reportedly being held in "re-education" camps.
The human rights organisation pointed to Turkey as a "leading voice" in calling out China’s repression of Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities.
"Ankara should now go beyond statements and use all the diplomatic tools at its disposal," said Philippe Bolopion, HRW’s deputy director of global advocacy.
Bolopion advised Turkey to seek support for a UN fact-finding mission in Xinjiang, which HRW, Amnesty and other human rights organisations called for on February 4.
"Establishing the facts on the ground," he said, "would make it harder for China to continue to pretend that it merely "educates" Turkic Muslims in its archipelago of camps".
Many Uighurs say more than half of their family members are detained either in prison or the camps, according to HRW.
The repression of Uighurs in the far-northwestern province Xinjiang is not confined to imprisonment and alleged torture.
Xinjiang has over the past years become a testing ground for high-tech surveillance technology. Authorities have collected masses of biometric data from Chinese Muslims in the province and heavily restricted residents’ freedoms of movement and activity.
Chinese authorities justify these actions as necessary measures to stamp out separatist "terrorist" groups in the region.
Read also: Explainer: China's persecution of Uighur Muslims
The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs' spokesperson Hami Aksoy said it was "no longer a secret" that Uighurs were facing "torture and political brainwashing" in the camps, a statement which Bolopion said "demonstrated laudable leadership".
"The reintroduction of internment camps in the twenty-first century and the policy of systematic assimilation against the Uighur Turks carried out by the authorities of China is a great shame for humanity," Aksoy said.
Bolopion called on Turkey to follow through on the statement by generating international pressure on China.
This would be difficult, however, if Turkey did not address its own "serious rights violations", he said.
Turkey has increasingly faced strong accusations of human rights violations over the past years, including allegations of violations of press freedom, arbitrary arrests, the repression of its Kurdish citizens, and the jailing of government critics through the misuse of anti-terrorism laws.