Published: Tue, February 12, 2019
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

China posts video claiming Uighur poet reported dead in detention is alive

China posts video claiming Uighur poet reported dead in detention is alive

Other countries should follow Turkey's lead in calling out China's mistreatment of Uighur Muslims, said the head of a major human rights group on Sunday.

State-owned China Radio International released a 25-second video of the pale-faced Heyit, dated 10 February, where he said he was being investigated for "allegedly violating national laws".

But critics say Uighurs are being pressured in the camps to assimilate with Chinese society and abandon religious and cultural practices that Beijing sees as potential sources of resistance.

"The policy of systematic assimilation against the Uighur Turks carried out by the authorities of China is a great shame for humanity", Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement.

"Turkey called on the worldwide community and the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, "to take effective steps to end the human tragedy in Xinjiang region".

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More than 1 million Uighurs are believed to have been held in "re-education camps", where they face psychological indoctrination in questionable conditions.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Saturday called on China to close its detention centres for Muslims, saying the camps said to hold almost a million ethnic Uighurs and other Turkic-language speaking minorities are a "great shame for humanity".

Turkey has called on China to close detention camps holding ethnic Uighurs following the reported death of a renowned musician from the minority.

Wearing a black and white sweater over a collared shirt, he said he was in "good health" and has "never been abused", according to the subtitles.

However, within 24 hours of Turkey making this statement China has released a video which purportedly shows Heyit alive.

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The famed poet and musician is a master of the dutar, a two-stringed instrument from Iran and Central Asia, and was reportedly sentenced to eight years in prison due to one of his songs.

Compared to China's ethnically homogenous Han majority, Uyghurs are an ethnic group of Turkic origins who have been slowly outnumbered since widescale Han migration to Xinjiang began after 1949. 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. "We hope the relevant Turkish persons can distinguish between right and wrong and correct their mistakes", spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.

Magnus Fiskesjo, associate professor of anthropology at Cornell University, said the "manipulative" video appeared to have been released in a panic and bore a striking similarity to China's televised "confessions".

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.

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