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Turkish PM urges China to stop 'assimilation' of Uighurs

world Updated: Jul 11, 2009 20:18 IST

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged China to stop the "assimilation" of its Uighur minority Saturday, the day after he said the unrest in Xinjiang was "like a genocide."

"We ask the government of China to abandon assimilation, because such assimilation can do you no good," Erdogan said in a speech to his Justice and Development Party broadcast on television.

"No state, no society which attacks the lives and rights of innocent civilians can guarantee its security and prosperity," he warned.

"Whether they are Turkic Uighurs or Chinese, we cannot tolerate such atrocities," Erdogan said. "The suffering of the Uighurs is ours."

Turkey has been angered by the plight of Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang following clashes with Han Chinese in the region, which has killed at least 184 people.

Anti-Chinese demonstrations have been held across Turkey in solidarity with the Uighurs, but the government has been cautious in its criticism of Beijing, a key trading

On Friday Erdogan, who heads Turkey's Islamist-rooted government, did not specifically blame China for deaths in Xinjiang but strongly criticised Beijing's inaction.

"The event taking place in China is a kind of genocide," he said, adding that "we have difficulty understanding how China's leadership... can remain a spectator in the face of these events."

Erdogan earlier said Turkey would ask the UN Security Council to discuss ways of ending the violence. The call was rejected by China, one of five permanent members of
the council who can veto its actions.

The foreign ministry in Ankara has been careful with the wording of its statements, urging China to "act in accordance with international human rights norms and principles" in handling the unrest.

"The Turkish people feel very close to the Uighur people and share their suffering," said a ministry statement, underlining that Uighurs forms a "strong bridge of friendship" between Turkey and China.

Trade and Industry Minister Nihat Ergun has called for a boycott of Chinese goods, while hastening to add that this was a personal gesture with no government approval.
A Chinese government policy of transferring members of the majority Han population to distant areas to consolidate Beijing's authority has exacerbated resentment among the locals, analysts say.

Xinjiang's eight million Uighurs make up nearly half the population of the region, and have long complained of repression and discrimination under Chinese rule, but Beijing insists it has brought economic prosperity to the region.