Turkey Referendum: China fears it may increase militancy in Xinjiang
Soon after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Sunday night that people of Turkey accepted presidential democracy by 51.41 percent and 48.59, China expressed its concern over the development telling that this can be exploited by the radical Islamic forces to make it again a centre of Islam. China also fears that Islamic identity of Turkey can also provide shelter to separatists' group East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in China's Muslim majority province.
In an article, Turkey's referendum may affect future of the Islamic world, published on China's official Global Times, writer Zhang Yi, also accused Turkey for its ambiguous attitude toward ETIM.
Global Times is a mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party of China (CCP) on international issues and editorials and opinion published here is considered as an official version of CCP.
ETIM is a separatist group founded by Uighurs in China's Xinjiang province. ETIM has been accused for many terror activities and declared as a terrorist organization by major countries including UK and USA. Creating a nation with the name of East Turkestan is one of its major demands.
The reaction came within hours as news flashed about Erdogan's win in the presidential referendum. China fears that if Turkey radicalized then it can be used as a transit centre for militants to enter European countries.
"ETIM separatists are able to use Turkey as a transit center to enter Europe. Early this year, an Istanbul nightclub attack was believed to be linked to ETIM members," the article reads.
China considers the secularization process of China as an important issue particularly when it is linked to ‘counter-terrorism' with China.
Turkey has been accused of being soft for ETIM - a charge Turkey has denied. The issue was raised during Erdogan's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his official visit to Beijing in 2015. Chinese media reported Erdogan saying that "the Turkish government opposes ETIM's terrorist activities aimed at China, and is willing to boost cooperation with China in this regard."
According to US-based think tank The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the idea of independent East Turkestan state would cover "an area including parts of Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region".
The Turkish referendum, held on Sunday, will allow 18 amendments in the constitution of Turkey. These amendments are introduced mainly by ruling Justice and Development Party, also known as AKP. According to these amendments, the post of Prime Minister will no more exist in the Turkish political system and the current parliamentary system will be replaced by presidential system of democracy. Critics of these amendments believe that this move will give more power in one hand.
The writer is a research scholar of Chinese studies
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