Istanbul's new Chinese public transportation signs spark fury

The addition of signs in Chinese to Istanbul’s tram and metro stops have caused fury on social media, with users accusing the city’s municipality of accommodating Beijing amid ongoing mistreatment of the country’s Uighur Muslims.

The Chinese signs are part of an agreement signed between the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) and China, pro-government Islamist Yeni Akit newspaper reported on Saturday.

The signs have been placed on Istanbul’s Çapa-Şehremini and Pazartekke tram stops, along with numerous metro stops, it said.

"How many Chinese tourists come to Istanbul in a year, for God’s sake,’’ one Twitter user said. "We keep talking about Uighur Turks and how we should speak out as a nation. But just look at what is being done [instead]’’.

China has faced international condemnation in recent months over the internment of at least one million Uighur Muslims,  a minority Turkic ethnic group, in so-called re-education camps in Xinjiang. 

In these prison-like camps, guards reportedly force Uighur inmates to sing patriotic hymns in order to get food, and subject them to physical and mental torture, among other violations.

Turkey, home to a sizeable Uighur population, has been the only Muslim country to voice criticism of China on the matter, however, over the past few months has retreated into silence. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a visit to China in July, said the Uighur Muslims led happy lives in the country. 

 "Hanging those Chinese signs while the oppression of China continues in east Turkistan is a negation of Turks, even in Turkey,’’  another Twitter user said.

One Twitter user shared an image from the Şişhane metro stop, calling on everyone to remove the signs where they see them. 

Yeni Akit newspaper labelled the Chinese signs as a "scandalous move,’’ by the opposition mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, who took office in June. 

Turkey-China relations have blossomed in recent years with Ankara negotiating massive infrastructure deals with Beijing, ranging from high-speed railways to nuclear power plants.