China has no “ethnic problem” in its far west, and Muslim Uyghur minorities there enjoy freedom of religion, the Foreign Ministry said Monday, following anti-China protests in Turkey over Beijing’s treatment of the group.
Relations between China and Turkey have soured over Beijing’s policies toward the Uyghur people, whose traditional home is in the far western region of Xinjiang. Many Turks see themselves as sharing religious and cultural ties with Uyghur, who have reportedly been banned from worship and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.
“Uyghurs live and work in peace and contentment and enjoy freedom of religion under the rules in the constitution,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a regular briefing. “So the so-called ‘Xinjiang ethnic problem’ you mentioned that has been raised in some reports simply does not exist.”
Hundreds of protesters marched on the Chinese consulate in Istanbul on Sunday, bearing flags and chanting anti-China slogans outside the building.
Meanwhile, China warned its citizens traveling in Turkey to be careful of anti-Beijing protests, saying some Chinese tourists have recently been “attacked and disturbed”.
The notice, posted on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website on Sunday, said there had been “multiple” demonstrations in Turkey targeting the Chinese government.
“Absolutely do not get close to or film the protests, and minimize to the greatest extent outside activities on one’s own,” the Chinese notice said.
Turkish daily Hurriyet reported a small group of people last week attacked a Chinese restaurant in Istanbul’s touristy Tophane district, smashing windows.