UN’s claim China holds 1 million Uygurs in Xinjiang camps has ulterior motives, repeats Beijing
Foreign ministry spokesman dismisses ‘defamatory rumours’ about the country’s treatment of the mostly Muslim Uygur minority
Anti-China forces are behind claims aired by a UN human rights panel that a million ethnic Uygurs may be held in internment camps in the far western region of Xinjiang, the Chinese foreign ministry reiterated on Tuesday.
China has previously said Xinjiang faces a serious threat from Islamists plotting attacks and stirring up tension between the mostly Muslim Uygur minority who call the region home and the country’s ethnic Han majority.
Authorities have dramatically stepped up security and surveillance there, likened by critics to near martial law conditions, with armed police checkpoints, re-education centres and mass DNA collection.
Members of a United Nations human rights panel reviewing China’s rights record have said they received credible reports that 1 million ethnic Uygurs are held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy”.
But “ulterior motives” of anti-China forces were behind the “unfounded” slandering of the country’s anti-terrorism measures, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Any defamatory rumours are futile,” Lu said. “People of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang cherish the current situation of living and working in peace and happiness.”
China has never officially confirmed the existence of detention centres in Xinjiang, but its treatment of Uygurs, as well as accounts of its use of relatives in China as leverage to silence a vocal diaspora, have spurred an international outcry.
China officially guarantees freedom of religion, but in recent years officials nervous about the possibility of radicalisation and violence have tightened controls in heavily Muslim areas.
China’s policy of “Sinification” of religion has increasingly alarmed many in other Muslim groups, who fear the government is widening strict curbs in Xinjiang to additional Muslim areas, such as the region of Ningxia and Gansu province.
In the crackdown, the government has banned religious education for young people in mosques, ordered that the call to prayer over loudspeakers be silenced in some places, and sought to stamp out what it sees as Arab elements in mosques.