Ten Turkish nationals were reportedly detained by Shanghai police for allegedly supplying passports to terror suspects from China’s Xinjiang region. It follows arrests made late last year of Chinese nationals who had allegedly purchased falsified Turkish passports. The move is another attempt by the Chinese government to quell the rising ethnic violence in the Xinjiang region. Many of those arrested were from the Turkic-speaking Uighur minority. Dr Michael Clarke from the Griffith Asia Institute spoke to reporter Jonathan Kaiman from The Guardian yesterday regarding the situation. Dr Clarke, a Xinjiang expert, said that if the report is true, the arrests would mark an unprecedented case of China arresting foreign nationals in connection with Xinjiang-related violence.
“Turkey, for the Uighurs, has long been seen as a clear cultural connection, linguistically and so forth,” he said. “I suppose there’s ideological sympathy as well for the Uighurs from Turkey. But I haven’t seen evidence before that Turkish nationals were travelling to China to support Uighurs within Xinjiang. “One big question is, how will this affect China’s relationship with Turkey itself? Over the past decade there has been a strengthening of the relationship on a number of levels: economic, diplomatic and security as well. If this emerges to be correct – that Turkish individuals are involved in terrorist activities in China– that would seem to be a fairly big issue in the bilateral relationship.”