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Mass training camps in Xinjiang eliminated religious extremism: China

China on Friday defended its much-criticised “vocational education camps” in the restive Xinjiang where thousands Uighur Muslims have been kept, saying that the training centres have "effectively eliminated" religious extremism in the restive province.

Mass training camps in Xinjiang eliminated religious extremism: China
Photo courtesy: Reuters


China in the last few months faced severe criticism from western countries over reports that it is holding one million people, mostly ethnic Uighurs, in internment camps in Xinjiang bordering India, Afghanistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and several Central Asian States in a bid to control violent attacks by separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) organisation.

China blames the ETIM, stated to be an affiliate of Al-Qaeda, for numerous violent attacks in the restive Xinjiang region and various other parts of the country including Beijing. Resource-rich Xinjiang province is home to over 10 million Turkik-speaking Uighur Muslims.

In a second official white paper titled “Vocational Education and Training in Xinjiang”, China said no terrorist incidents have occurred in Xinjiang for nearly three years since the education and training started, and the overall situation in society continues to be stable.

“Religious extremism has been effectively eliminated. Through education, the vast majority of trainees can recognise the nature and harm of terrorism and religious extremism, and free themselves from the control these phenomena exert over their minds,” the white paper issued by the State Council, China's central Cabinet said.

“Citizens now consciously resist religious extremism, and the trend in society is now to pursue knowledge of modern science and technology and a cultured way of life,” it said.

Education and training centres in Xinjiang never interfered in the trainees' freedom of religious belief nor make any attempts to have the trainees change their religious beliefs, it claimed.

“As trainees have fallen under the influence and control of religious extremism to a greater or lesser extent, the centres integrate de-radicalisation into the whole process of education and training,” it said.

It said hundreds of police officials have been killed in the past in violent attacks carried out by separatists.

“Xinjiang is a key battlefield in the fight against terrorism and extremism in China. For some time, Xinjiang has been plagued by terrorism and religious extremism, which pose a serious threat to the lives of the people in the region”, it said “Between 1990 and the end of 2016, separatists, religious extremists and terrorists plotted and carried out several thousand acts of terrorism such as bombings, assassinations, poisoning, arson, assaults, and riots in Xinjiang. Many innocent people were killed and several hundred police officers died in the line of duty. The property losses incurred were enormous,” it said.

Following the improvement in the situation in 2018, over 150 million tourists visited Xinjiang, an year-on-year increase of 40 per cent. Foreign tourists numbered 2.6 million, a year-on-year increase of nearly 12 per cent, it said.

China had last month issued a white paper on Xinjiang, defending the camps and describing the facilities as re-education centres aimed at de-radicalising sections of the Uighur Muslim population from extremism and separatism.

“China released the white papers to provide a full picture to the international community on its Xinjiang policies amid attempts of some Western media and anti-China forces to use this issue to stir trouble and contain China," Qian Jinyu, executive dean of the Human Rights Institution of Northwest University of Political Science and Law in Shaanxi Province, told state-run Global Times.

The camps came under heavy criticism at the UN Human Rights Council last month where UN ambassadors from 22 countries - including Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany and Japan have written a letter to top UN human rights officials condemning China's treatment of Uighur and other minorities in the western Xinjiang region.

The letter to Human Rights Council President Coly Seck, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet called on China to stop "arbitrary detention" and allow freedom of movement of Uighurs and other Muslim and minority communities in Xinjiang.

In defence, China mobilised over 50 countries including Pakistan and several Islamic countries who wrote to the UN defending Beijing's measures in Xinjiang.

Local officials in Xinjiang said in recent weeks that most of the trainees have been sent home after completion of the training.

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