A new extradition treaty with China will not see Muslim Uighurs deported from Turkey, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Wednesday, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
The Chinese parliament ratified the treaty at the weekend, raising concerns among the 50,000-strong Uighur community in Turkey. The Turkish government has yet to approve the agreement.
Çavuşoğlu spoke after media reports linked the new treaty to approval by China for delivery of millions of doses of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine to Turkey. The first batch arrived in the capital Ankara by plane from China early on Wednesday.
Approval of the treaty would not mean “Turkey will release Uighurs to China”, Çavuşoğlu told reporters in Ankara, according to Anadolu. “Until now, there have been requests for returns from China related to Uighurs in Turkey. And you know Turkey hasn’t taken steps like this,” the minister said.
Cultural ties between the Chinese Uighur community and Turkey makes the country a favoured destination for avoiding persecution in China.
United Nations officials and rights advocates say at least a million Uighurs have been detained at some point in camps in China’s Xinjiang region. China labels the centers as educational and vocational institutes to counter extremism.
It would be “wrong and unfair to say it (the treaty) is a deal for the extradition of Uighurs”, Çavuşoğlu said. “We are more sensitive to such issues than others.”