Relations between China and Turkey are at a crossroads as the latter turns up the pressure on all fronts over China's handling of the riots in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on July 5.
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi held a phone conversation Sunday with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, on bilateral ties and riots in Urumqi. Both sides highlighted the importance of the China-Turkey relationship.
Thousands of protesters assembled Sunday in Istanbul's Caglayan Square, chanting slogans calling on the Chinese government to "protect our brethren," the Associated Press reported yesterday.
The Turks have linguistic and cultural ties with the Turkic-speaking Uygurs in Xinjiang, where a riot broke out July 5, leaving at least 184 dead and more than 1,600 injured. Of the dead, 137 were Han, according to official figures.
Rebiya Kadeer, kingpin of the World Uyghur Congress, claimed that "thousands of Uygurs" had been killed in the violence.
The protests in Istanbul over the weekend came after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that the ethnic violence in Urumqi was "a kind of genocide."
The Turkish PM's remarks immediately triggered widespread anger in China.
A Chinese hacker yesterday attacked the official website of the Turkish Embassy in China – www.turkey.org.cn – as part of unofficial warnings given to Turkey to stop interfering with the nation's internal affairs.
The Web surfer, with the user name "Maffia Baron," left a message on the website, saying, "The Xinjiang question belongs to China's internal affairs and no interference is welcomed."
The hacker's message also said China is fully confident to deal with the turmoil and hopes the Turkish Ambassador to China hears the voices of Chinese people.
He Liangliang, a commentator at Hong Kong's Phoenix Satellite TV, said in a news program that the Turkish PM's accusations just reveal some Turks' dreams to revive the Pan-Turkism expansionism following the riots in Xinjiang.
The term Pan-Turkism refers to an intellectual and political movement advocating the union of all Turkic peoples.
He deemed that Pan-Turkism is a false and out-of-date ideology, as it's impossible that all Turkic nationalities could be unified into one country.
The violence that began July 5 sparked almost daily protests in Turkey, mostly outside heavily guarded Chinese diplomatic missions in Istanbul and Ankara where some protesters burned Chinese flags or China-made goods, the AP reported.
Turkish trade unions and business associations have called for a countrywide boycott of Chinese products. "People are seeing the violence against the Uygurs – they should stay away from Chinese products from now on," Omer Kusbeoglu, chairman of the Union of Gaziantep Craftsmen and Artisans Chambers, told todayszaman.com, a leading media outlet in Turkey.
Following the rampant protests, the Chinese embassy in Turkey warned Chinese citizens living in the country to reinforce safety precautions and enhance awareness of self-protection.
Before departing for China on an official visit last month, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Turkey expects to further cement relations with China in political and economic fields.
During the final leg of his China tour in Urumqi, Gul said, "The Uygur people are a bridge of friendship between the Chinese and Turkish peoples."
A Chinese scholar on Islamic studies said the mounting pressure by the Turkish side will harm the bilateral relations between the two countries.
"The Turkish government showed a friendly attitude at first over (China's handling of) the Xinjiang riot," Tian Wenlin, a deputy professor at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times yesterday.
"But the hostile rhetoric of its Prime Minister showed a change in its policies over that issue, which will greatly damage the bilateral relationship with China," Tian said.
Tian said Turkey has long been racking its brains on how to expand its influence and never give up its effort to promote the supremacy of Turkey over its neighboring countries.
But under a current international order that sees sovereign states as basic units, Turkey's attempts will be doomed to failure, he said.
Turkey itself has long faced the threat of separatism and enforces its crackdown on Kurdish separatists at home and abroad, Su Hao, director of the Center for Strategic and Conflict Management at China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times.
Eastern Turkish separatists are suspected of having instigated the rampant protests over China, he said.
He said both the Turkish government and its prime minister should be careful with their words and shouldn't carry out irresponsible acts for the sake of sound ties between China and Turkey.