China denies internment of 1 mn Uighurs

China is holding Uyghur Muslims in ‘political indoctrination camps’ says UN panel

Chinese soldiers in an anti-terror drill in Xinjiang in 2017 | Reuters

China's campaign of pressure against the country's Uighur Muslim minority has prevented the far-northwestern region of Xinjiang from "becoming "China's Syria" or 'China's Libya, '" an official Communist Party newspaper said Monday.

The country responded to concerns, raised by a member of a United Nations human rights committee, that its Xinjiang region has been turned into "something resembling a massive internment camp, shrouded in secrecy, a sort of no-rights zone".

Following attacks by radical Muslim separatists, hundreds of thousands of members of the Uighur and Kazakh Muslim minorities in Xinjiang have been arbitrarily detained in indoctrination camps where they are forced to denounce Islam and profess loyalty to the party.

Don't miss out on the latest news and information. Since 2016, hardline official Chen Quanguo has overseen an increase in security spending and the development of a network of extrajudicial internment camps where inmates are held without proper trial, often under "terrorism" or "separatism" charges, according to NGO Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

"The turnaround in Xinjiang's security situation has avoided a great tragedy and saved countless lives", it said in an editorial. Police and security posts can be seen everywhere in Xinjiang.

China insists there is no "arbitrary detention" and are no "re-education centres" in the Xinjiang region after a United Nations human rights committee raised concern over reported mass detentions of ethnic Uighurs. "Maintaining peace and stability in the region is the core interest of people both in Xinjiang and all of China", it states.

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"The argument that one million Uighurs are detained in re-education centres is completely untrue", he added, before admitting the existence of resettlement or re-education programmes.

People select vegetables at a bazaar ahead of Eid al-Adha festival in Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region on August 27, 2017.

Accounts from the region pointed to Muslims "being treated as enemies of the state exclusively on the basis of their ethno-religious identity", Mr. McDougall said, citing reports from activists and scholars that many had disappeared and that even the most commonplace religious practices had become grounds for punishment.

Yemhelhe Mint Mohamed, a panel member, referred to "arbitrary and mass detention of nearly 1 million Uighurs" and asked the Chinese delegation, "What is the level of religious freedom available now to Uighurs in China, what legal protection exists for them to practice their religion?"

He said China had imprisoned people for grave crimes, while minor criminals were assigned to vocational training and not subject to arbitrary detention or ill-treatment, without giving numbers. Mr. Yu, leading a delegation of 48 senior officials, offered no response to the committee's questions, but he is scheduled to address them when the meeting resumes on Monday morning.

Panelist Gun Kut described most of the delegation's answers as "very defensive", adding: "I'm sure you didn't come all the way from China to basically say that everything is okay and there is not much to be done".

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