Chinese Academic Manyuan Dong, vice president of the China Institute of International Studies, said claims about the mistreatment of minorities in Xinjiang are not true, and that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan knows about the environment, rights and freedom issues in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region better than anyone and therefore, Turkish journalists can ask him directly about the real situation.
The Chinese Embassy in Ankara organized a conference titled "The Situation of Ethnic Groups and Religions in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China" on June 20 with the participation of academics and experts from China. Speaking at the conference, Chinese Academic Manyuan Dong said that most of the news that circulates in Turkish media outlets about Xinjiang claiming that members of the Uyghur minority are forced to change their names or forced to break their fast do not reflect the truth. "Xinjiang is a place where various ethnic and religious groups have lived in harmony throughout history and all the minorities and religious groups have had the right to practice their religion freely since the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region was established in 1955." He added that "Turkish President Recep Tayyyip Erdoğan who has been to Xinjiang twice knows the environment in Xinjiang better than anyone, thus Turkish journalists can also ask him questions about freedom of religion in China directly, if they find our statements unsatisfactory."
Academic Dilmurat Omar, who is of Uyghur origin from Xinjiang Normal University in Urumqi, said that freedom of religion is one of the fundamental policies in China, while stressing that every minority and ethnic group has the right to practice their religion. "Around 60 percent of Xinjiang's population is Muslim and Uyghur's are the main Muslim group numbering more than 10 million," he said, while adding that there are more than 40 different ethnic groups living in Xinjiang and a total of 56 in China. "All the ethnic groups whose population is above 100,000 have the right to radio and TV stations in their language," he added. Responding to the question of whether the Chinese government is forcing them to change their Islamic names to Chinese ones, Omar stated that as a Chinese academic, he is proud to have the name of one of the most powerful and influential Muslim caliphs in history, and even his name is proof that the allegations are baseless.
Regarding freedom of religion, Pinyan Ma, an expert from the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said there are around 24,000 mosques in Xinjiang where Muslims can freely practice their religion, and 29,000 imams serving in mosques. "In Xinjiang we do put too much effort into religious freedom. There are various laws to protect religious rights. In addition, the Muslim community in Xinjiang has started to publish their magazines in recent years and they have their own websites about Islamic studies," he added. Academic Ma on the other hand pointed to China's policy to fight against extremism and added that since 2014, several measures have been taken to strengthen this fight. "All kinds of extremism including Islamist extremism are a great threat to our security. In addition to security measures, we need to put forth the peaceful side of Islam. Thus, our cooperation with Turkey is essential," he added.
Guangcheng Xing, the director of the China Border Study Institute, on the other hand, provided information about Xinjiang's significance in the Belt and Road Initiative and said that Xinjiang has a very important role and a unique advantage in this project. "The historic Silk Road passed through this area and today transportation infrastructure in Xinjiang is connecting China to Central Asia," he explained, while adding that Turkey's middle corridor initiative is welcomed by China and is considered a complementary project of the Belt and Road Initiative. "Turkey is a strategically important partner of China and the Uyghur's are valuable citizens of Xinjiang who can play a significant role in enhancing our cultural and economic relations with Turkey," he concluded.