China responded to Turkish criticism of how it treats ethnic Uighurs and denied claims that a renowned poet from the Muslim minority died in their custody, calling it an “absurd lie”, reports AFP.
"China has already made solemn representations towards Turkey. We hope the relevant Turkish persons can distinguish between right and wrong and correct their mistakes," Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, said during a daily press briefing, on Monday, February 11th.
On Saturday, Turkey's foreign ministry severely criticised China's mass detentions of its Turkic-speaking Uighurs, and claimed that poet, Abdurehim Heyit, had died while serving a sentence of "eight years in prison for one of his songs".
However, China released a video on Sunday showing a man who identified himself as Heyit saying that he was still alive. Hua called the Turkish foreign ministry's statement "vile", and said the claim of Heyit's death was an "absurd lie" and "extremely wrong."
"I saw his video online yesterday, showing that he is not only alive but also very healthy," Hua said.
A panel of experts from the UN said that almost one million Uighurs and other Turkic language-speaking minorities are reportedly held in so-called “re-education camps” in China’s western Xinjiang region, which holds the more than 10 million Uighurs.
Turkey, in perhaps the strongest condemnation yet from a Muslim country, said China's treatment of Uighurs was "a great embarrassment for humanity". Many have been conspicuously quiet on the issue, possibly to avoid Chinese diplomatic or economic retaliation.
The plight of China's Uighurs is closely followed in Turkey because of a common language, as well as cultural and religious links, including the presence of tens of thousands of ethnic Uighurs there.