ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey called on China to close its internment camps for Muslims, saying the camps which reportedly hold a million ethnic Uighur people are a "great shame for humanity".
Last week, rights activists urged European and Muslim nations to take the lead in establishing a U.N. investigation into China's detention and "forced indoctrination" of up to 1 million Uighurs, who speak a Turkic language, and other Muslims in Xinjiang province.
"The policy of systematic assimilation against the Uighur Turks carried out by the authorities of China is a great shame for humanity," Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement late on Saturday.
"It is no longer a secret that more than 1 million Uighur Turks incurring arbitrary arrests are subjected to torture and political brainwashing in internment camps and prisons," Aksoy said.
Turkey's response follows the death in detention of Uighur poet and musician Abdurehim Heyit, which Aksoy said was a tragedy that had "reinforced the reaction of the Turkish public opinion toward serious human rights violations committed in the Xinjiang region. We expect this legitimate response to be taken into account by the Chinese authorities."
"On this occasion, we invite the Chinese authorities to respect the fundamental human rights of Uighur Turks and to close the internment camps," he said.
China's embassy in Ankara posted a lengthy response on its website that said Aksoy's accusations were false and urged the government to retract them.
"Allegations that the Chinese government is attempting to 'eliminate' the ethnic, religious and cultural identity of Uighurs and other Muslims are completely groundless," it said.
Beijing faces growing international pressure over its so-called "de-radicalization" program in its far western province.
Ankara called on the international community and the U.N. secretary general to take action.
China says it protects the religion and culture of its ethnic minorities and that security measures in Xinjiang are needed to counter groups that incite violence there.
(Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun; Additional reporting by John Ruwitch in SHANGHAI; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Dale Hudson)