China announced Saturday the ratification of an extradition treaty with Turkey that it intends to use, inter alia, to accelerate the return of refugees and Uighur Muslims suspected of “terrorism.”
Since the 1950s, Turkey has welcomed Uighurs fleeing persecution in China. Uighurs and Turks have linguistic, cultural and religious ties. Currently, more than 50,000 Uighurs call Turkey home. While the treaty does provide grounds for refusal of extradition based on Turkish citizenship, it is feared by many that the Chinese persecution will follow them to Turkey. In recent years, Uighurs in Turkey have been extradited to China via third countries, and some have reported harassment by the police.
It is uncertain whether the Turkish parliament will ratify the deal. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) does not possess a majority in the parliament and relies on support from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). During Turkey’s 2019 local elections, the AKP lost control of nine provincial capitals. Before the election, large pan-Turkic solidarity rallies were held in protest over the AKP’s inaction against the crackdown on Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang.
If Erdoğan delays ratification, China may withhold investment and shipments of COVID-19 vaccines. If he pushes for ratification, he could stand to lose the support of the MHP and be unable to approve the treaty.