Image: Protesters chant slogans in support of East Turkestan in Istanbul
Osman Orsal  /  Reuters
Protesters in Istanbul, Turkey, chant slogans during a rally July 12 against the deadly riots in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang against Uighurs. Turks share ethnic and cultural bonds with the Turkic-speaking Uighurs
updated 7/12/2009 3:13:22 PM ET 2009-07-12T19:13:22

Thousands of Turks protested in an Istanbul square Sunday to denounce ethnic violence in China's Xinjiang province that has killed 184 people and call on their government to intervene to protect Muslim Uighurs there.

Turks share ethnic and cultural bonds with the Turkic-speaking Uighurs and the government has expressed concern over the Chinese treatment of Uighurs following the riots. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan even likened the situation in Xinjiang to genocide.

China released a breakdown of the death toll from communal rioting, saying most of the 184 killed were from the Han Chinese majority — an announcement that fueled suspicion among Muslim Uighurs that many more of their people died.

About 5,000 people gathered in Istanbul's Caglayan square, on the European side of the city, holding up Turkish flags and blue-and-white flags of a short-lived Uighur breakaway republic in the 1930s.

'Don't feed cruel China'
They shouted slogans denouncing violence against the Uighurs and called on the government to "protect our brethren."

The protesters — most members of an Islamic party — also called for a boycott of Chinese goods, shouting: "Oh government don't sleep, don't feed cruel China!"

The violence that began July 5 has sparked almost daily protests in Turkey, mostly outside heavily guarded Chinese diplomatic missions in Istanbul and Ankara where some protesters have burnt Chinese flags or China-made goods. Sunday's protest, however, was the largest against China.

Turkish Industry Minister Nihat Ergun has called on Turks to stop buying Chinese goods although the government itself has no plans for an official boycott.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, meanwhile, called his Chinese counterpart, conveying Turkey's concerns, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

Uighurs favor independence or greater autonomy for Xinjiang province, which takes up one-sixth of China's land mass and borders eight Central Asian countries. The Han — China's ethnic majority — have lately been flooding into Xinjiang as the region becomes more developed.

More on Uighurs

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