China has no “ethnic problem” in its far west, and Muslim Uighur minorities there enjoy freedom of religion, the country’s foreign ministry has said, following anti-China protests in Turkey over Beijing’s treatment of the group.
“Uighurs 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 on Monday.
“So the so-called ‘Xinjiang ethnic problem’ you mentioned that has been raised in some reports simply does not exist.”
Relations between China and Turkey have worsened over Beijing’s policies towards the Uighur people, whose traditional home is in the far western region of Xinjiang.
Many Turks see themselves as sharing religious and cultural ties with Uighurs, who have reportedly been banned from worship and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.
Turkey vowed last week to keep its doors open to Uighur migrants fleeing persecution in China. Turkey has also irked China by expressing concern over the reports of restrictions on Uighurs during Ramadan.
Hundreds of protesters marched on the Chinese consulate in Istanbul on Sunday, bearing flags and chanting anti-China slogans outside the building.
Beijing warned on Sunday its citizens travelling in Turkey to be careful of anti-China protests, saying some 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 minimise to the greatest extent outside activities on one’s own,” the Chinese notice said.
Hundreds of people have been killed over the past three years in a series of attacks in Xinjiang. Beijing has blamed the attacks on fighters who seek to form an independent state called East Turkestan.