Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi used an address during his African trip, which started this week, to defend Beijing’s mass detention and re-education of Muslims in western China as anti-terrorism efforts, saying the measures were “totally legal, as they are widely recognised as preventive steps”. Speaking in Cairo on Wednesday, Wang said China had responded to a United Nations’ call to use development, education and other resources to curb extremist religious thought. Beijing’s policies “echoed” the principles in the UN’s 2015 “Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism”, as well as the experiences of countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France and the United States, he said. Wang was speaking a day after US legislators released a report calling on US President Donald Trump’s administration to impose sanctions on China for human rights abuses. The Congressional-Executive Commission on China charged that Beijing may be committing crimes against humanity with the incarceration of more than 1 million people in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Last month, the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to approve a bill paving the way for sanctions against Chinese officials over human rights abuses. After the report was issued, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticised China’s treatment of the mainly Muslim Uygurs and called on the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the 22-nation Arab League to denounce China’s policies in Xinjiang. Pompeo stresses Hong Kong autonomy, urges slamming China over Uygur abuse Last week, Bahrain’s Council of Representatives criticised China for what it said was the mistreatment of Uygurs, but other Muslim countries, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, support Beijing’s position. Egypt was one of about three dozen African countries that gave China their backing after 22 mostly Western nations called on Beijing to close its facilities in Xinjiang. Wang hit back at claims Uygurs were mistreated, saying that what happened in Xinjiang was about fighting separatism and terrorism, rather than a matter of human rights or religion. China was “deradicalising” Muslims and used vocational training centres to teach them new skills, he said. In 2017, Beijing opened the re-education camps following a spate of violent attacks across China, in which hundreds of people were killed or injured, Wang said. “To safeguard people of all ethnic groups … the Xinjiang autonomous region’s government has resolutely cracked down on all forms of terror,” he said, adding that the training centres had produced good results. “All the trainees in the centres have now graduated, and with the help of the government they found stable jobs and are living peaceful and secure lives,” he said. Rubio urges US Congress to pass Uygur bill to counter Xinjiang crackdown While in Cairo on Tuesday, Wang met Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary general of the Arab League, who said the organisation “fully understands China’s stance on Xinjiang-related issues and opposes any interference in China’s internal affairs”. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi said his country would “strengthen cooperation with China in different fields and enhance exchanges in the fight against terrorism and extremism”. Wang also used his speech to take a swipe at the US for its criticism of events in western China. “I hope everyone can see clearly that some Western forces attacking China’s Xinjiang issue under the so-called human rights and religious banner are precisely those who have the least respect for Islamic civilisation,” he said. Those countries continued to provoke war in the Middle East and other regions, he said, a week after a US drone strike killed Iran’s military chief Qassem Soleimani in Iraq. Tehran responded on Wednesday by launching missile attacks on two US military bases in Iraq. On Thursday, Wang was in Djibouti, where he held talks with Minister for Foreign and International Cooperation Mahmoud Ali Youssouf and promised that China would continue to fund port and rail projects there under Beijing’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative. Chinese foreign ministers typically make Africa their first excursion of the year, a symbolic gesture of how highly Beijing values its relationship with the continent. Wang is expected to continue his trip in Eritrea – where a partnership with China began work on a major road infrastructure project in November – and Zimbabwe, where ties date back more than 50 years. Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.