Turkish protesters stormed a Chinese restaurant in central Istanbul Sunday, shouting anti-China slogans, flinging blue paint and dropping a “dead” baby doll on a table.
They were apparently protesting China’s bans on Ramadan fasting in the majority-Muslim region of Xinjiang. That region’s native people, the Uyghurs, speak a language related to Turkish, and some separatists prefer to call the region “East Turkestan.” (RELATED: China Won’t Let Muslims Fast For Ramadan)
Sunday’s instigators were members of a small nationalist group, whose ideology, Turanism, espouses unity among the world’s Turkic peoples. In a rally outside the restaurant, they flew banners reading “Long Live East Turkestan,” and chanted the slogans “Down with Red China” and “Murderous China, get out of Turkestan.”
While the group is apparently independent, its Facebook and Twitter accounts use images — especially pictures of howling wolves — associated with the “Grey Wolves.” That organization is a paramilitary political movement unofficially linked to the MHP, a far-right political party which won the third-largest share of seats in the June 7 election. (RELATED: Sunday’s Turkish Election Was A Blow To Strongman-Style Islamism)
Mehmet Ali Aǧca, who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981, was a member of the Grey Wolves.
Besides shouting slogans and bursting into the restaurant, protesters reportedly beat one of the employees — who, it turns out, was himself not Chinese but Uyghur.
China’s officially atheist and Communist government has repeatedly clamped down on Islamic religious activity in Xinjiang, including mosque attendance and religious wedding ceremonies. It has also restricted Christian and Buddhist activities in places where it believes religion could threaten loyalty to the government. (RELATED: China Forces Muslim Shopkeepers To Sell Liquor)
The Hong Bin Lou restaurant is well-situated in the busy downtown neighborhood of Taksim, across the street from the consulates of Germany and Macedonia. However, it is a private business and some 30 minutes’ drive away from the Chinese government’s consulate in Istanbul.
Right-wing provocateurs are not the only Turks protesting China’s “war on Ramadan.” Turkey’s foreign ministry issued a statement Tuesday, expressing “sorrow” that the Chinese government has kept Uyghurs from “fulfilling their religious duties.”
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