Turkey is noticeably absent from signatories of a cross-regional joint statement urging China to allow the immediate access of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and independent observers to Xinjiang, where more than a million of the country’s Uyghur Muslim minority have been arbitrarily detained, with some reportedly subjected to torture and forced labor.
The joint statement on China was read out by Canadian Ambassador Leslie Norton on behalf of more than 40 countries on June 22 during the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Ankara has become less vocal about the plight of Uyghurs in recent years as it has developed economic ties with China.
In the joint statement the UN member states expressed grave concern about the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
The countries also called on China to “implement the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s 8 recommendations related to Xinjiang, including by ending the arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities.”
Bachelet told the council on Monday that she hoped to agree on terms for a visit this year to China, including Xinjiang, to examine reports of serious violations against Muslim Uyghurs, Reuters reported.
China’s treatment of the Uyghurs has drawn international condemnation, with human rights groups estimating that some 1 million Uyghurs have been arbitrarily incarcerated in a network of prison camps. There have also been reports of forced sterilization, systematic torture and rape.
Beijing denies all allegations of abuse of Uyghurs and describes the camps as vocational training facilities to combat religious extremism.
An estimated 50,000 Uyghurs are currently living in Turkey, making it the largest Uyghur diaspora in the world. The Uyghurs have sought refuge in Turkey for decades because of their shared cultural ties.
As Ankara grows more economically dependent on Beijing, the Turkish government is no longer offering a safe haven or defending Uyghur rights. Genocide motions in Western parliaments have also been criticized by the Turkish government and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) officials.
On March 10 a motion calling China’s abuses of Uyghurs “genocide” was voted down by the AKP. Deputies from its ally the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) chose to abstain from the vote in parliament.
Uyghurs in Turkey not only worry about their families but also fear for their own safety as China recently ratified an extradition treaty with Turkey that was signed several years ago.
“Credible reports indicate that over a million people have been arbitrarily detained in Xinjiang and that there is widespread surveillance disproportionately targeting Uyghurs and members of other minorities and restrictions on fundamental freedoms and Uyghur culture,” the joint statement said.
“There are also reports of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, forced sterilization, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced separation of children from their parents by authorities,” it added.
The statement also decried a law imposed a year ago in Hong Kong against what China deems secession and terrorism.
The joint statement was signed by Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Finland, Germany, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, Ukraine and the US.