Home BREAKING NEWS Turkish police detain six for spying on Uyghurs for China

Turkish police detain six for spying on Uyghurs for China

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By Tsering Dhundup

  Turkish authorities have detained six individuals in Istanbul on suspicion of spying on prominent Uyghur figures for China, with an ongoing search for another suspect, as reported by the state-run Anadolu Agency.

The detainees are accused of surveillance on Uyghur-related individuals, associations and institutions, purportedly passing gathered intelligence to Chinese authorities. The arrests came after an investigation spearheaded by the Terrorism and Organized Crime Bureau of the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office, Anadolu reported.

Specific details such as the timing of the arrests and the nationalities of the suspects were not disclosed in the initial report. However, the local newspaper Sabah claimed that all individuals in question were foreigners.

Turkey is home to a significant Uyghur population, estimated at around 50,000, representing the largest diaspora of Uyghurs outside Central Asia. The Turkish-Uyghur connection is underscored by shared ethnic, linguistic, and religious ties, fostering considerable sympathy among Turkish authorities and the populace toward the struggles faced by Uyghurs in China’s East Turkestan (Chinese: Xinjiang).

Despite the sympathy, Turkey has been navigating a delicate foreign policy balancing act, seeking to maintain relations with both Western allies and China. While supportive of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Turkey has resisted Beijing’s pressures to extradite Uyghur individuals to China. An extradition treaty between Turkey and China was signed in 2017, yet it is yet to be ratified by the Turkish parliament since 2019.

Chinese authorities have faced scrutiny for their transnational repression tactics, notably targeting exiled Tibetan communities outside Tibet. Tactics include leveraging relatives within Tibet through coercion or intimidation, as well as maintaining a pervasive surveillance apparatus that fosters a sense of constant apprehension among exiled groups, undermining trust and unity within diaspora communities.

The recent arrests in Istanbul shed light on the broader issue of transnational repression and the challenges faced by ethnic minority groups such as the Uyghurs and Tibetans in their struggle for freedom and rights beyond China’s borders.