Turkish Parliamentary approval of extradition treaty with China is formalization and normalization of China’s Global Uyghur Hunt.


Turkish Parliamentary approval of extradition treaty with China is formalization and normalization of China’s Global Uyghur Hunt.

Mehmet Tohti

The Extradition Treaty approved by the Parliament of China (NPC), on December 26, 2020, terrified the Uyghur community living in Turkey as they  feared for being the Treaty’s primary target.. Faik Oztrak, spokesperson of Turkish main opposition Party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP),  criticized the government’s consent to go ahead with the Turkish-China Extradition Treaty.  Lutfi Turkkan, the Deputy Chief of The Good Party (İYİ Parti )went further, however, by  linking  China’s intentional delay of  delivering the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine as  a bargaining chip throughforcing Turkey to repatriate thousands of Uyghur refugees to China.

The draft of this Treaty was signed by Bekir Bozdag, the Turkish Minister of Justice and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on May 13, 2017, during the visit of Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to China for the Belt and Road Initiative Summit.

After reviewing the Treaty, President Erdogan sent it back for a Parliamentary vote on April 12, 2019 with his brief note of approval.  Because opposition votes will not be enough to overturn it, the Treaty is expected to be passed by the Turkish Parliament imminently.

According to Article 2 of the Treaty, any party can request extradition of anyone  from another party with a criminal act of minimum 1 years sentencing or verdict of  minimum 6 months sentencing. Uyghurs in Turkey are frightened of these provisions because of  China’s long record of fabricating charges withforced witness testimonies.

Timing could not be better for China as both the Turkish Treasury and foreign reserve is recording a breaking deficit, and its stumbling economy requires cash injections  to improve the situation .  China caught that momentum  forced Turkey to offer a maximum concession in return for assistance, including  with vaccine supplies.

More than 30,000 Uyghurs are estimated to have sought refuge in Turkey – both from escaping China’s prosecution after the 2009 Urumchi Massacre and the escalated repression mounting to genocide committed against them since 2016.

Currently, fundamental rights of Uyghurs in their homeland of East Turkistan (which since 1955 China refers to as Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) are severely violated: Millions of Uyghurs have been sent to concentration camps under the guise of training centers. Various reports have confirmed the enforced slave labour,  separation and displacement of Uyghur families,  and physical and mental torture in the camps. China’s government has destroyed mosques, shrines, graveyards, banned the Uyghur language, separated families from their children, and created a digital Gulag to eradicate Uyghur’s cultural and religious identity.

A   new report, based on China’s internal information, has detailed the forced sterilization and forced abortion of Uyghur women, and other horrible measures used to prevent the birth of the Uyghur population.

As survivors of China’s genocide, many Uyghur Refugees residing in Turkey have provided extensive first hand evidence to the international media about China’s atrocities committed against  them and their family members. Gulgine, a Uyghur doctor in Istanbul, examined and verified more than 300 Uyghur women who have gone through forced sterilizations and abortion by China.

Therefore, President Erdogan does not need to look further to see the horrible atrocities that his fellow kinships are going through. He once said: “Is it left to you (Western States)  to take care of the oppressed of the world, [to] tell what’s right and defend justice? We will remind them that our basic principle is: ‘If your brother is in difficulty, you cannot be in security and stability.’

While China’s  unfolding genocide committed against the Uyghurs continues to shock the consciousness of the world, Turkish Parliamentary approval of its extradition Treaty will be a devastating blow for Turkey and Erdogan, as it stands starkly against every word that President Erdogan has claimed. It is the declaration of self-destruction with the stain mark on the history.

Given the imminent danger that Uyghurs are facing in Turkey, Canada should intervene and prevent Uyghurs  from being used by China’s  and China’s partners as trading commodities.

On October 21, 2020, the Canadian International Human Rights Subcommittee issued a bipartisan statement which declared the following:

“To this end, the Subcommittee also notes the tremendous risk and sacrifice that Uyghurs face when they speak publicly about the horrors they and their families have endured. Many of those who have been fortunate enough to escape are stateless, unable to secure a permanent refuge. The Government of Canada should use existing refugee programs and create an exceptional refugee stream, to expedite refugee applications of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims fleeing persecution in Xinjiang and elsewhere, especially human rights defenders.”

It is time to act and deliver that promise.

Mehmet Tohti is executive Director of Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project based in Ottawa Canada.