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China's state media defends Xinjiang Muslim crackdown

August 13th, 2018 | Tags:
Paramilitary police patrol the airport in Hotan in western China's Xinjiang region. Photo: Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera

An official Communist Party newspaper said China's campaign of pressure against its Uighur Muslim minority has prevented the Xinjiang region from becoming "China's Syria" or "China's Libya."

The Global Times editorial on Monday came after a United Nations anti-discrimination committee raised concerns on Friday over China's treatment of Uighurs, citing reports of mass detentions that it said "resembles a massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy".

More than one million Uighur Muslims are estimated to be in detention in "counter-extremism centres" in China's far western region, said Gay McDougall vice chairperson of a UN anti-discrimination committee.

Following attacks by separatists, 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.

Global Times said the intense regulations in the region were merely "a phase that Xinjiang has to go through in rebuilding peace and prosperity".

The editorial did not directly mention the existence of the internment camps.

'Salvaged from turmoil'

Denouncing what it called "destructive Western public opinions", the paper said, "peace and stability must come above all else".

"Through the strong leadership of the Communist Party of China, the national strength of the country and the contribution of local officials, Xinjiang has been salvaged from the verge of massive turmoil," the newspaper said. "It has avoided the fate of becoming 'China's Syria' or 'China's Libya.'"

Xinjiang has been enveloped in a suffocating blanket of security for years, especially since a deadly anti-government riot broke out in the regional capital of Urumqi in 2009. Over recent months, monitoring groups and eyewitnesses say Uighurs have been summoned from abroad and across China and sent into detention and indoctrination centres.

The roughly 10 million Uighurs make up a tiny proportion of China's almost 1.4 billion people and there has never been an uprising that could challenge the central government's overwhelming might.

Re-education camps

When the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination started reviewing China's report in Geneva on Friday, Chinese delegation leader Yu Jianhua highlighted economic progress and rising living standards among other things.

McDougall also said there were estimates another two million have been forced into so-called re-education camps for political and cultural indoctrination.

She did not specify a source for that information in her remarks at the hearing.

The Geneva-based committee continues its hearing Monday, with conclusions expected later. Yu, China's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said China will respond to the main questions raised in Friday's session on Monday.

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