Updated: Jan 16, 2021, 06.46 PM(IST)
Turkey has begun countrywide COVID-19 vaccinations on Thursday shortly after China-produced vaccine Sinovac was granted emergency authorisation.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca received a shot on live television, followed by members of Turkey’s advisory science council.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan received the first dose of Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine CoronaVac on Thursday. More than 250,000 Turkish people have been vaccinated in Turkey so far.
But Turkey has been accused of agreeing to hand over Uighur Muslims to China in exchange for access to its COVID-19 vaccines.
The allegations stem from the timing of two events in December: the long-delayed arrival of Turkey’s order of vaccines from the Chinese firm Sinovac and Beijing’s abrupt move to ratify a 2017 extradition deal with Ankara.
In December 2020, Turkey had brushed aside fears that a new extradition treaty with China would result in Ankara deporting Muslim Uighurs en masse.
Earlier, China announced the ratification of an extradition treaty with Turkey that human rights groups warn could endanger Uighur families and activists fleeing persecution by Chinese authorities if it is adopted by Ankara.
In recent years, China has forcefully cracked down on Uighurs around the world, using their religion to cite a national security threat.
Uighurs around the world have said to media that they were too afraid to contact their relatives in Xinjiang for fear of Chinese retribution against their family.
Turkey is home to some 50,000 Uighurs, the largest Uighur diaspora group in the world.
Turkey signed a contract for 50 million doses of Sinovac Biotech’s vaccine, which should arrive by the end of February. It has so far received 3 million doses as its first batch, but only after three delays totalling around three weeks.
China is facing international criticism over reports it has imprisoned around 1 million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in vast labour camps in the autonomous region of Xinjiang in the west of the country that it claims are “re-education” facilities. China denies accusations of imprisonment and claims it is fighting domestic terrorism and separatism.