Uighur activists on Tuesday burnt Chinese flags in Ankara, where Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平) was holding talks with Turkish officials on regional issues.
About 60 Turkic-speaking Uighurs from China’s northwestern Xinjiang region protested outside the hotel where Xi was staying in the Turkish capital on the last leg of a trip that also took him to the US and Ireland.
Xi, almost sure to succeed Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in just over a year, praised Turkey’s role in trying to resolve issues such as the Iranian nuclear dispute and conflicts in the Middle East.
Waving the flag of East Turkestan, pale blue with a white star and crescent, the protesters burnt a Chinese flag and a poster of Xi, before police moved in to disperse them.
Rights groups accuse China of abuses during a crackdown after Uighur riots in 2009 and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has described the events as a “genocide.” Turkey is home to thousands of Uighurs who have fled Xinjiang since China took over the region in 1949.
Xi said China had made great strides to raise the living standards of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang.
Turkey and China are at either end of a political and economic axis stretching along the old silk road though Central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan. Both have strong, sometimes competing economic interests in the region.
Turkey, the world’s 16th-largest economy and only second to China in growth last year, has projected itself as a stable Muslim democracy, making it a key player at a time of turmoil and unrest in the Middle East.
“A member of the G20 with a growing economy and an important country in the Middle East, Turkey has for a long time tried to bring stability and development to the region, and played an active role in trying to solve ‘hot’ issues,” Xi told Turkey’s Sabah newspaper, listing Afghanistan, the Iranian nuclear and Middle East peace efforts.
Xi was scheduled to travel to Istanbul to attend a business forum yesterday.