TURKEY

Chinese tourists in Turkey told to avoid anti-Beijing protests after attacks

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 July, 2015, 1:06am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 July, 2015, 7:08pm
AFP

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China warned its citizens travelling in Turkey to be careful of anti-Beijing protests, warning them some Chinese tourists had been "attacked and disturbed".

The notice, posted on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website on Sunday, said there had recently been "multiple" demonstrations in Turkey targeting the Chinese government.

"Absolutely do not get close to or film the protests, and minimise to the greatest extent outside activities on one's own," the notice said.

Turkish nationalists protesting against China's treatment of ethnic Uygur Muslims attacked a group of Korean tourists in the heart of Istanbul's old city on Saturday, mistaking them for Chinese nationals.

Hundreds of protesters marched towards the Topkapi Palace on the banks of the Bosphorus Strait in a show of solidarity with the Uygurs, who complain of cultural and religious suppression under Chinese rule in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

Shouting "Allahu akbar [God is great]", they attacked some Koreans outside the Topkapi Palace, which is visited by thousands of tourists every day.

The Korean tourists were rescued by riot police, who fired tear gas to disperse the attackers, members of the notorious far-right Grey Wolves closely affiliated with the Nationalist Movement Party.

Video footage by Dogan news agency showed a distraught Korean tourist telling reporters: "I'm not Chinese, I'm Korean."

The incident came amid a row between Ankara and Beijing over Turkish media reports of restrictions on Muslim Uygurs worshipping and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.

Turkey this week summoned the Chinese ambassador to convey its concern over the alleged restrictions. Beijing in turn denied the allegations and demanded that Turkey clarify its statements.

A total of 173 Uygurs arrived in Turkey from Thailand last Tuesday where they were being held after fleeing China. Beijing expressed displeasure with Turkey on Friday for accepting the group.

But Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said Ankara would continue to welcome its "Uygur brothers", citing "cultural and historical bonds".

"Turkey is keeping its doors open for Uygurs who have arrived or want to come to our doors," he said.

Over the last week hundreds of Turkish nationalists have demonstrated against China's alleged Ramadan bans.

A popular Chinese restaurant in Istanbul was attacked on Wednesday and had its windows smashed by a group of protesters who did not realise it was Turkish-owned and that its chef was an ethnic Uygur.

A predominantly Muslim country, Turkey shares linguistic and religious links with the Uygur community, which has several associations in the country.

Ramadan has become a sensitive time in Xinjiang following a rise in attacks blamed by Beijing on Islamist militants over the past three years. Hundreds have died in the violence.

Additional reporting by Reuters