A notice on the website for China’s Embassy to Turkey called on its citizens to not approach or film or photograph the protests, and “reduce individual outings.”
On Tuesday, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry expressed “deep concern” about reports Beijing has instilled restrictions on segments of its Muslim population during the holy month of Ramadan.
China has since replied, expressing concerns of its own about the Turkish statement.
The marches have mostly started around and after iftar — when Muslims break their daily fast — with people taking to the streets, holding placards and shouting slogans, but on Saturday a large protest in Istanbul at midday saw hundreds march to the city’s famed Blue Mosque “to show support to Muslims in East Turkestan.”
Many carried flags in the Turkish red and Uighur sky blue and called for a boycott of Chinese goods.
Turkish newspaper Sabah reported that a group of Korean tourists had to be rescued by police after they were attacked by marchers connected to Turkey’s “Gray Wolves” movement on being mistaken for Chinese nationals. The Gray Wolves are a pan-Turkic movement, represented in Parliament by Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) – which received 16.3 percent of the vote in the June 7 election.
Marches were again planned all over Turkey for Sunday.
In mid-June, it was widely reported that China had banned fasting in parts of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region for Party members, civil servants, students and teachers.
On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry said that her government had noted Turkey’s concerns and wanted clarification.
“All ethnic groups in China are entitled to the freedom of religious belief under Chinese constitution,” Hua Chunying said through a translator.
That claim followed allegations last year that Beijing had issued warnings to employees and students not to fast during the holy month.
It is also reported to have restricted men from having long beards, clamped down on religious education activities, and acted to control the entrances and exits to mosques.
On Thursday, Hua said that Beijing attached great importance to its developing relationship with Turkey.
“We hope we can develop the bilateral relationship, based on a mutual respect of each other’s major concerns and common interests,” she said.
“We hope that the Turkish side will work together with us to maintain the smooth development of the bilateral relationship.”
The “concern” expressed by marchers is reflective of the sentiment that many Turks have with regard to the Uighur issue.
Many refer to China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region — home to many ethnic minority groups, including Turkic Uighur people — as East Turkestan.
They believe that Uighur are among a number of Turkic tribes that inhabit the region, and consider it to be part of Central Asia, not China.
Uighur, a Turkic group that makes up around 45 percent of the population of Xinjiang, has accused Chinaof carrying out repressive policies that restrain their religious, commercial and cultural activities.
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