Many Uygurs from the restive Xinjiang region have attempted to leave China through underground channels in recent years. File photo: AFP

Turkish embassies in Southeast Asia 'gave fake travel documents to Uygurs fleeing China'

Mainland media says Turkish embassies, consulate generals and related agencies in Southeast Asia knowingly gave proof of citizenship and passports to Chinese from Xinjiang

Turkish embassies in Southeast Asia have been accused of helping Uygurs from the restive Xinjiang region to flee from China by issuing questionable travelling documents, Chinese state media reported on Friday.

The report, citing Chinese police sources, came after Thailand announced on Thursday that about 100 Uygurs had been deported to China on Wednesday, while an earlier group of 172 women and children had been sent to Turkey in late June.

Citing the Ministry of Public Security, the Global Times, a tabloid newspaper affiliated to People’s Daily, said Chinese police and Southeast Asian countries’ law enforcement officials had faced “resistance and interference” from other countries in the course of their crackdown on illegal emigration.

“According to [human smugglers’] confessions, Turkish embassies, consulate generals and related agencies in Southeast Asia … knowingly processed proof of citizenship and issued passports and travel documents to Chinese people from Xinjiang,” the online report said.

“They even falsely claimed these Uygurs were their citizens and openly rescued and took them away,” the report added. “Such a practice opens the door for illegal emigration, violating local countries’ laws and international treaties.”

The Turkish embassy in China told South China Morning Post it could not immediately comment on the Times’ report.

The print version of the Times’ report did not say that it was Turkey that had interfered, and referred to it only as “an individual country”. But the article published on the Times’ website explicitly named Turkey’s role.

Many of the Uygurs had planned to arrive in Turkey through Southeast Asian countries, and then head for Syria and Iraq to join terrorist groups and the jihad, the Times’ report said.

The western Xinjiang autonomous region, bordering Central Asia, is home to the majority of Uygurs in China.

In recent years, groups of Uygurs have attempted to leave China through underground channels.

However, the World Uygur Congress, a Germany-based advocacy group, said Uygurs were leaving China because of government oppression, not because they wanted to join terrorists groups abroad.