Turkish police hit pro-Uighur protesters with pepper spray

Riot police use pepper spray to push back a group of Uighur protesters who try to break through a barricade outside the Chinese Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, Thursday, June 9. 2015 Image copyright AP
Image caption Protesters in Ankara were hit with pepper spray after pushing a police barricade

Turkish police have fired pepper spray at pro-Uighur demonstrators outside the Chinese embassy in Ankara.

It comes after protesters attacked the Thai consulate in Istanbul following the deportation from Thailand of about 100 Uighurs to China.

Rights groups have criticised such deportations, saying Uighurs face persecution in China.

Turkey has seen growing anger at Chinese discrimination against Uighurs, who are ethnically Turkic Muslims.

But China has said it respects the freedom of Muslim beliefs.

On Thursday, close to 100 people were dispersed by pepper spray outside the Chinese embassy in the Turkish capital after a barricade was knocked down.

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Media captionUighurs already living in Turkey responded angrily, smashing windows at the Thai consulate in Istanbul

Thai officials said protesters stormed their compound in Istanbul late on Wednesday night. No injuries were reported.

The Royal Thai Embassy in Turkey advised Thais in Turkey to not to show the national symbol or flag in public, to avoid protest venues and to "refrain from mentioning or arguing with the Turkish" on the issue of Uighurs.

On Thursday, the Thai government confirmed that about 100 Uighurs had been sent back to China the day before.

Government spokesman Weerachon Sukondhapatipak said Thailand had verified that the Uighurs were Chinese nationals before returning them, but it is unclear how their nationality was confirmed.

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said: "If we don't do it this way, then how would we do it?

"Or do you want us to keep them for ages until they have children for three generations?"

Image copyright AP
Image caption Thursday's protests were the latest in a number of anti-China demonstrations in Turkey

Human Rights Watch's Asia deputy director Phil Robertson said the Uighurs sent to China "will likely face torture". Rights groups have criticised Cambodia and Thailand for deporting Uighurs to China, saying they face persecution, abuse and human rights violations.

Turkey has seen increased protests and isolated attacks on tourists thought to be Chinese over China's treatment of Uighurs.

The latest spike of anti-Chinese sentiment began over allegations that Uighurs in China had been banned from fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. But China has denied such reports.

In previous years, students have told the BBC they have been prohibited from taking part in Ramadan fasts, and government departments have restricted civil servants.

Many of China's Uighurs are based in the far western province of Xinjiang, which has seen increased tensions and conflict between Uighurs and authorities in recent years.

Who are the Uighurs?

  • Uighurs are ethnically Turkic Muslims
  • They make up about 45% of the Xinjiang region's population; 40% are Han Chinese
  • China re-established control in 1949 after crushing short-lived state of East Turkestan
  • Since then, there has been large-scale immigration of Han Chinese and Uighurs fear erosion of their culture
  • Xinjiang is officially designated an autonomous region within China, like Tibet to its south

Xinjiang profile

Why is there tension between China and the Uighurs?

Q&A: East Turkestan Islamic Movement

The colourful propaganda of Xinjiang

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