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Page last updated at 14:45 GMT, Tuesday, 14 July 2009 15:45 UK

China demands Turkish retraction

Uighur women and soldiers in Urumqi, 14 July
There is still a heavy military presence on the streets of Urumqi

China has demanded that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan retract his accusation that Beijing practised genocide against ethnic Uighurs.

Mr Erdogan made the comments after riots in the Muslim Uighur heartland of Xinjiang in which 184 people died.

Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi, is under heavy police and military control.

UK-based analysts say al-Qaeda-linked militants in Algeria have called for reprisals against Chinese workers in the wake of the violence.

China's rejection of Mr Erdogan's remarks came in an editorial headlined "Don't twist facts" in the English-language newspaper China Daily.

It said the fact that 137 of the 184 victims of the 5 July unrest were Han Chinese "speaks volumes for the nature of the event".

The newspaper urged Mr Erdogan to "take back his remarks... which constitute interference in China's internal affairs", describing his comments as "irresponsible and groundless".

Mr Erdogan made the controversial comments last Friday, telling NTV television: "The incidents in China are, simply put, a genocide. There's no point in interpreting this otherwise."

He called on Chinese authorities to intervene to prevent more deaths.

Turkey is secular but the population is predominantly Muslim and it shares linguistic and religious links with the Uighurs.

Militant threat

In a report, a UK-based global security intelligence firm said that events in Xinjiang had triggered a call from an Algerian-based al-Qaeda affiliate for reprisals against Chinese workers.

XINJIANG: ETHNIC UNREST
Main ethnic division: 45% Uighur, 40% Han Chinese
26 June: Mass factory brawl after dispute between Han Chinese and Uighurs in Guangdong, southern China, leaves two Uighurs dead
5 July: Uighur protest in Urumqi over the dispute turns violent, leaving 156 dead - most of them thought to be Han - and more than 1,000 hurt
7 July: Uighur women protest at arrests of menfolk. Han Chinese make armed counter-march
8 July: President Hu Jintao returns from G8 summit to tackle crisis

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQM) had promised to target Chinese workers in Algeria and north-west Africa, Stirling Assynt said.

AQM appeared to be the first al-Qaeda affiliate to officially state that it would target Chinese interests, the group said, warning that others could follow suit.

A foreign ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, said China would work with relevant countries "to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of overseas Chinese institutions and people".

He appealed for understanding within the Muslim world.

"If they have a clear idea about true nature of the incident, they would understand China's policies concerning religion and religious issues and understand the measures we have taken," Mr Qin said.

Economist plea

Separately, more than 100 Chinese writers and intellectuals have signed a letter calling for the release of Ilham Tohti, an outspoken Uighur economist.

Mr Tohti disappeared from his Beijing home last week and has apparently been detained.

"Professor Ilham Tohti is a Uighur intellectual who devoted himself to friendship between ethnic groups and eradicating conflicts between them. He should not be taken as a criminal," said the intellectuals' letter.

It was posted online on Monday, and demands information about his case.

"If they've started legal proceedings toward Ilham Tohti, [the authorities] must gain trust from the people through transparency, and especially gain trust from the Uighur people," the letter said.

It also said that Mr Tohti's website, Uighurbiz.cn, was an important site for dialogue between Han Chinese and Uighurs.

In a televised speech on 6 July, Xinjiang governor Nur Bekri accused the site of helping "to orchestrate the incitement and spread propaganda".

The letter also urged the Chinese government to reflect on whether its own mistakes caused the unrest in Xinjiang and the anti-government riots last year in and around Tibet.

The violence in Xinjiang began during a protest by Uighurs over an ethnic brawl in southern China in late June in which two people were killed.



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