China releases video of Uighur musician to 'disprove his death'

Frederick Owens
February 12, 2019

Turkey slammed China for its "systematic assimilation policy towards Uighur Turks", labelling it a "great embarrassment for humanity" while urging Beijing to shut down the "concentration camps".

Chinese state media have released a video purportedly showing Uyghur poet Abdurehim Heyit alive and insisting he's "in good health" following claims he had died in prison.

Beijing faces growing worldwide pressure over its so-called "de-radicalization" program in its far western province. "I am in the process of being investigated for allegedly violating the national laws".

The Uighurs are a Muslim Turkic-speaking minority based in the north-west Xinjiang region of China, which has come under intense surveillance by Chinese authorities.

Though Muslim majority countries have so far refused to voice their concerns over the treatment of their co-religionists, Turkey's public reprimand of Beijing has been met with criticism.

A United Nations panel of experts has said that almost one million Uighurs and other Turkic language-speaking minorities have reportedly been held in "re-education camps" in China's western Xinjiang region, where most of the country's more than 10 million Uighurs live.

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The unverified video, published by China Radio International's Turkish service, comes after Turkey's Foreign Ministry reported Heyit's death in a statement on China's detention of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.

"We've learned with great sorrow that dignified poet Abdurehim Heyit, who was sentenced to eight years in prison for his compositions, died in the second year of his imprisonment", he said.

A Turkish diplomatic source told Reuters that while it was naturally a positive development if the video was "true" and Heyit was alive, the main issue the Turkish foreign ministry addressed in its statement was the "heavy violations" of human rights in China. "I'm now in good health and have never been abused". Turkey depends on Chinese financing for major infrastructure projects, while China sees Turkey as an important link in its gargantuan Belt and Road project to expand its economic reach overseas.

China's embassy to Turkey said on Sunday that the vocational education program in China's remote northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is part of the government efforts to combat terrorism and extremism and dismissed as "false" the claims that it had set up a re-education labor camp to purge the area's ethnic minority.

"The Chinese Foreign Ministry's response to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs: the allegations are outrageous, we have an official initiative", the tweet read.

The Xinjiang region in China houses 10 million Uighurs, and make up 45 percent of the population in the region.

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