No arbitrary detention of Muslims in Uighur region says China
China insisted on Monday that "arbitrary detention" or "re-education centres" do not exist in its far western Xinjiang region, rejecting concerns raised by a U.N. human rights committee that millions of ethnic Uighurs may be being held in camps.
Beijing was responding to questions raised by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva.
A committee member last week cited estimates that over 1 million people in China from the country's Uighur and other Muslim minorities are being held in "counter-extremism centres" and another 2 million have been forced into "re-education camps".
In Xinjiang, following sporadic violent attacks by Muslim separatists, hundreds of thousands of members of the Uighur and Kazakh Muslim minorities have been arbitrarily detained in indoctrination camps where they are forced to denounce Islam and profess loyalty to the party.
China's delegation told the U.N. panel that "there is no arbitrary detention ... there are no such things as re-education centres."
China's Uighur heartland turns into security state
China says it faces a serious threat from Islamist extremists in its Xinjiang region. Beijing accuses separatists among the Muslim Uighur ethnic minority of stirring up tensions with the ethnic Han Chinese majority. By Nadine Berghausen
Economy or security? China routinely denies pursuing repressive policies in Xinjiang and points to the vast sums it spends on economic development in the resource-rich region. James Leibold, an expert on Chinese ethnic policy says the focus on security runs counter to Beijing's goal of using the OBOR initiative to boost Xinjiang's economy, because it would disrupt the flow of people and ideas
China's far western Xinjiang region ramps up security: three times a day, alarms ring out through the streets of China's ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar and shopkeepers rush out of their stores swinging government-issued wooden clubs. In mandatory anti-terror drills conducted under police supervision, they fight off imaginary knife-wielding assailants
One Belt, One Road Initiative: an ethnic Uighur man walks down the path leading to the tomb of Imam Asim in the Taklamakan Desert. A historic trading post, the city of Kashgar is central to China's "One Belt, One Road Initiative", which is President Xi Jinping's signature foreign and economic policy involving massive infrastructure spending linking China to Asia, the Middle East and beyond
China fears disruption of "One Belt, One Road" summit: a man herds sheep in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. China's worst fears are that a large-scale attack would blight this year's diplomatic set piece, an OBOR summit attended by world leaders planned for Beijing. Since ethnic riots in the regional capital Urumqi in 2009, Xinjiang has been plagued by bouts of deadly violence
Ethnic minority in China: a woman prays at a grave near the tomb of Imam Asim in the Taklamankan Desert. Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking distinct and mostly Sunni Muslim community and one of the 55 recognised ethnic minorities in China. Although Uighurs have traditionally practiced a moderate version of Islam, experts believe that some of them have been joining Islamic militias in the Middle East
Communist Party vows to continue war on terror: Chinese state media say the threat remains high, so the Communist Party has vowed to continue its "war on terror" against Islamist extremism. For example, Chinese authorities have passed measures banning many typically Muslim customs. The initiative makes it illegal to "reject or refuse" state propaganda, although it was not immediately clear how the authorities would enforce this regulation
CCTV cameras are being installed: many residents say the anti-terror drills are just part of an oppressive security operation that has been ramped up in Kashgar and other cities in Xinjiang's Uighur heartland in recent months. For many Uighurs it is not about security, but mass surveillance. "We have no privacy. They want to see what you're up to," says a shop owner in Kashgar
Ban on many typically Muslim customs: the most visible change is likely to come from the ban on "abnormal growing of beards," and the restriction on wearing veils. Specifically, workers in public spaces, including stations and airports, will be required to "dissuade" people with veils on their faces from entering and report them to the police
Security personnel keep watch: authorities offer rewards for those who report "youth with long beards or other popular religious customs that have been radicalised", as part of a wider incentive system that rewards actionable intelligence on imminent attacks. Human rights activists have been critical of the tactics used by the government in combatting the alleged extremists, accusing it of human rights abuses
It said authorities in Xinjiang have cracked down on "violent terrorist activities," while convicted criminals are provided with skills to reintegrate themselves into society at "vocational education and employment training centres."
"The argument that 1 million Uighurs are detained in re-education centres is completely untrue," Chinese delegate Hu Lianhe said through an interpreter.
He added "there is no suppression of ethnic minorities or violations of their freedom of religious belief in the name of counter-terrorism." But he also said "those who are deceived by religious extremism ... shall be assisted through resettlement and education."
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.
Gay McDougall, the committee vice-chairwoman who raised the detentions last week, said she wasn't convinced by China's "flat denial" of the detention figures. She said China "didn't quite deny" that re-education programmes are taking place.
"You said that was false, the 1 million. Well, how many were there? Please tell me," she said. "And what were the laws on which they were detained, the specific provisions?"
There was no direct response to that in Monday's session, which addressed a broad range of issues that went well beyond the Uighurs.
But delegation leader Yu Jianhua said some panel members had treated "some of the unsubstantiated materials as credible information."
He contended that some of that information came from groups which "seek to split China" and have links to terrorist organisations. (AP)