Muslim anger grew on Friday at China’s crackdown in Xinjiang, with Turkey’s leader labeling the plight of the Uighurs “a kind of genocide” and thousands taking to the streets of world capitals in protest.
“The event taking place in China is a kind of genocide,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters after returning from the G8 summit in Italy. “There is no other way of commenting on this event.”
“There are atrocities there, hundreds of people have been killed and 1,000 hurt. We have difficulty understanding how China’s leadership can remain a spectator in the face of these events,” Erdogan said.
He also called on Beijing “to address the question of human rights and do what is necessary to prosecute the guilty.”
The leader of the exiled Uighur community claimed thousands may have died.
“According to unconfirmed reports we get on the ground, now the number is up to 1,000 or some say 3,000,” Rebiya Kadeer, the Washington-based head of the World Uighur Congress, told a news conference.
In Istanbul, about 5,000 people demonstrated outside the Fatih mosque after Friday prayers, NTV TV showed.
“No To Ethnic Cleansing” demonstrators chanted, while burning Chinese products.
About 700 people took part in a similar demonstration at the Kocatepe mosque in Ankara.
Other protests were held in seven other Turkish towns. Uighurs are Turkic speakers and Turkey, while recognizing Chinese sovereignty in Xinjiang, has been particularly outspoken on the case of the predominantly Muslim ethnic minority.
Turkish Trade and Industry Minister Nihat Ergun has called for a boycott of Chinese goods. This was backed by a Turkish consumer defense group that held a protest on Friday outside the Chinese consulate in Istanbul.
In Germany, which has Europe’s largest Uighur community, about 150 people rallied in front of the Chinese embassy in Berlin against the crackdown, police said.
About 200 people protested in Australia’s capital, Canberra, shouting “death to Chinese terrorists” outside the Australian parliament.
Uighur exiles hurled rocks and cobblestones at China’s embassy in The Hague this week during another demonstration. Fourteen people were given jail terms of between a week and 10 days by a Dutch court for their part in the protests.
Concern has grown in recent days, especially in the Muslim world. The Organization of the Islamic Conference has condemned the “disproportionate” use of force in Xinjiang and called on China to carry out an “honest” investigation into the incidents and find those responsible.
The head of Indonesia’s largest Muslim party, the Prosperous Justice Party, called for UN and Western pressure on China to stop the “slaughter” of Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese.
“China can no longer act as tyrants towards those of their people who are of a different faith,” Tifatul Sembiring said in a statement.
Indonesia is the world’s most populous Islamic nation.
Many governments have urged restraint. Japan on Thursday urged China to protect the human rights of Uighurs in Xinjiang. Japanese diplomats told Chinese counterparts at a bilateral human rights meeting in Tokyo that Uighurs and China’s other minorities should have their human rights guaranteed, a Japanese official told reporters.