What camps? says China on ‘million Uyghurs interned’ in Xinjiang

Last week, Gay McDougall, vice-chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination told the UN panel there were deep concerns about Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) being turned into a “massive internment camp”.
Local Muslims leaving a Mosque after Friday prayers in Hotan, in China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomus Region on June 23, 2017.(AFP File Photo)
Local Muslims leaving a Mosque after Friday prayers in Hotan, in China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomus Region on June 23, 2017.(AFP File Photo)
Updated on Aug 14, 2018 03:31 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Beijing | BySutirtho Patranobis

China has flatly denied that it has put a “million Uyghurs” in re-education camps, saying there are “no such things” in its northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

It has set up “vocational education and employment centres” to provide livelihood skills to those who have committed minor offences, Chinese officials have told a United Nations rights panel.

The officials also defended the banning of veils in the province, saying it was against local customs and was required to fight terrorism.

This was China’s first official denial of several reports that said hundreds of thousands from minority Muslim communities – mostly Uyghurs – have been packed off to camps.

Last week, Gay McDougall, vice-chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination told the UN panel there were deep concerns about XUAR being turned into a “massive internment camp”.

“We are deeply concerned at the many numerous and credible reports that we have received that in the name of combating religious extremism and maintaining social stability (China) has changed the Uyghur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internship camp that is shrouded in secrecy, a sort of ‘no rights zone,” McDougall told the panel.

The 49-member Chinese delegation that was attending the UN panel said the reports were false and baseless.

“There are no such things as ‘re-education centres’ or ‘counter-extremism training centres’ in Xinjiang,” Hu Lianhe told the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

“The saying that ‘a million Uyghurs are detained in re-education centres’ is completely untrue,” Hu said.

“With respect to persons involved only in minor offences, the authority provides them with assistance and education by assigning them to vocational education and employment training centres to acquire employment skills and legal knowledge, with a view to assisting their rehabilitation and reintegration,” he added.

“…the legal rights of persons assigned to vocational training centers are duly protected and they are not subject to any arbitrary detention, let alone ill-treatment there,” official news agency Xinhua quoted Hu as saying.

Hu also defended the ban on veils.

“…wearing masked robes is prohibited according to local laws and regulations, as such robes are not ethnic garments of the Uyghurs there”.

“Wearing masked robes is also prohibited in many countries in the world. The prohibition of wearing masked robes is not only the need to respect and protect ethnic customs in Xinjiang, but also the need for anti-terrorism and anti-extremism,” Hu said.

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