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Activists protest the treatment of Uyghur Muslims by Chinese authorities in the East Turkestan region of China's Xinjiang province at a protest outside the Chinese embassy in London, England, on Feb. 2, 2019. On Feb. 9, 2019 Turkey demanded China close "concentration camps" holding the Muslim Uighur minority.
NurPhoto—NurPhoto via Getty Images

(Bloomberg) — Turkey demanded Chinese authorities respect human rights of the Muslim Uighur minority and close “concentration camps” imprisoning them.

More than 1 million Uighurs are being tortured and “politically brainwashed” in camps and prisons in China, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement on the ministry’s website Saturday.

While Turkey and China broadly have good relations, Aksoy said he was responding to the death of Uighur poet and musician Abdurehim Heyit in a Chinese prison. Turkish media said he was tortured to death in a so-called re-education camp in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

“The re-emergence of concentration camps in the 21st century and China’s systematic assimilation policy toward Uighur Turks are great embarrassment for humanity,” Aksoy said.

The detention and “re-education” of as many as 1 million minority Muslim Uighurs in China’s far west has been condemned by human rights groups and prompted calls for sanctions from U.S. lawmakers, who reject China’s assertion that the camps are voluntary education centers that help purge “ideological diseases.”

Turkey calls on other countries and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to take steps to end the “humanitarian tragedy” in Xinjiang, Aksoy said.

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