ANKARA—Turkey called in China’s ambassador on Tuesday after his embassy said it had “the right to respond” to opposition leaders who criticized the Chinese regime’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims three decades ago.
The politicians, IYI Party leader Meral Aksener and Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavas of the main opposition CHP, had marked what they called the 31st anniversary of a brief uprising by Uyghurs against the regime in China’s far west.
Aksener said on Twitter “we will not remain silent about their persecution” and martyrdom. Yavas said “we still feel the pain of the massacre” in 1990.
Ambassador Liu Shaobin was summoned to the ministry after his embassy tweeted a statement in response.
“The Chinese side determinedly opposes any person of power that in any way challenges China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and strongly condemns this,” it said. “The Chinese side reserves its legitimate right to respond.”
Many of the 40,000 Uyghurs in Turkey have criticized the government’s approach to Beijing after the Chinese regime approved an extradition treaty in December which they fear may lead to them being sent back to China to face vague charges which they deny.
Hundreds protested as Chinese foreign minister visited Ankara last month.
U.N. experts estimate at least a million Uyghurs and other Muslims are held in detention centers in northwest China’s Xinjiang. The United States said in January that the Chinese regime had committed “genocide and crimes against humanity” by repressing Uyghurs.
Aksener and Yavas are seen as potential rivals to President Tayyip Erdogan in elections slated for 2023.
By Yesim Dikmen and Tuvan Gumrukcu