China Power

Turkey Chimes in on Uyghur Human Smuggling Case

Plus, Zhang Miao, securing the North Korean border, and China’s nuclear industry. Friday China links.

Turkey Chimes in on Uyghur Human Smuggling Case
Credit: Xinjiang crowd image via Pete Niesen /

Time for this week’s China links:

First, there are two updates on my previous story about Turkish citizens being arrested for allegedly planning to help Chinese Uyghurs illegally leave China to join terror groups in Syria and elsewhere. First, as The New York Times reports, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed that ten of its citizens were arrested in Shanghai for trying to smuggle Uyghurs out of the country. However, Turkey’s statement failed to mention “any of the terrorism-related charges” raised by Global Times’ initial report. As I mentioned in my original piece, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson who addressed the reports earlier this week also ignored the terrorism angle. That raises questions over whether the Turkish group truly intended to funnel Uyghurs to terrorist groups, or whether this was a case of would-be refugees — which would make the issue far more serious for China-Turkey relations.

Meanwhile, China Daily reports that China will “strengthen law enforcement cooperation with Turkey to combat terrorist suspects from the Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region entering the Eurasian country illegally.” As a Chinese official told the newspaper, China “will work closely with [Turkish authorities] to investigate Xinjiang suspects who enter Turkey illegally.” China also hopes to increase cooperation with Turkish police to prevent “cross-border criminal gangs who help Xinjiang terrorists to cross China’s borders illegally and assist them in obtaining fake Turkish passports.”

In other news, many China watchers have likely already seen this first-person narrative from Die Zeit, which has been making the rounds on social media with the hashtag #freemiao. In the piece, German reporter Angela Köckritz recounts her experiences with the Chinese domestic security apparatus after her Chinese assistant, Zhang Miao, is taken into custody. It’s a fascinating story of one journalist’s encounter with China’s security forces, and underscores just how seriously Beijing takes the Hong Kong protests.

As an addendum to the story, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei officially responded to a question about Zhang Miao back on October 13. His response, in full:

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As far as I have learned, the person you mentioned is suspected of committing provocative activities and creating troubles. She did not acquire the post as the Chinese employee of the German press in Beijing in accordance with relevant regulation of China. Chinese authorities concerned are dealing with the case as what the law and regulation prescribe. The person in your question is a Chinese citizen. She should observe her obligations as a Chinese citizen and cooperate with relevant investigation by the Chinese public security organ.

In the wake of the murder of four Chinese citizens by a North Korean deserter late last year, Reuters reports that China is organizing civilian militias to help patrol the border. According to the plan, every ten households along the border will have their own border security group to help patrol for potential trouble. In recent years there have been several incidents of North Koreans sneaking across the border and committing crimes in China, sparking concern in Beijing that Pyongyang cannot adequately control its border. “The fact that North Koreans are running over the border to China shows that North Korea’s regulation of the border is seriously problematic,” Zhang Liangui of China’s Central Party School told Reuters.

Finally, Xi Jinping gave China’s nuclear power industry his personal seal of approval this week, as Xinhua reports. “China will sharpen the competitive edge of its nuclear industry,” Xinhua paraphrased Xi as saying. Premier Li Keqiang also chimed in, saying that “we will work hard to build the country into a powerful nuclear industry player” while also keeping “a close eye” on safety issues. For more on China’s nuclear power push, see my previous piece for China Power.