China rolls out PR push on Muslim internments | 2018-10-17 | daily-sun.com

China rolls out PR push on Muslim internments

    16th October, 2018 11:01:45 printer

BEIJING:  China on Tuesday issued an ardent defence of the alleged mass internment of minorities in its far west Xinjiang region, with a regional official insisting that authorities are preventing terrorism through “vocational education” centres, reports AFP.

Beijing has sought to counter a global outcry against the facilities with a series of op-eds and interviews and a roll out of new regulations that retroactively codify the use of a system of extra-judicial “reeducation” camps in Xinjiang.

Up to one million ethnic Uighurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic minorities are believed to be held in such centres, according to estimates cited by a United Nations panel.

Former inmates have said they found themselves incarcerated for transgressions such as wearing long beards and face veils or sharing Islamic holiday greetings on social media, a process that echoes the decades of brutal thought reform under Mao Zedong.

The programme has come under increasing fire from the international community, receiving particular censure from the United States and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Chinese authorities initially denied the existence of the facilities. But they have changed their tune as satellite imagery and documents issued by their own government have made that position untenable.

In recent weeks the story has shifted from outright dismissal to acknowledgement that the camps exist, with the caveat that they are being used primarily for “vocational education” in a bid to halt separatist sentiments and religious extremism.

In a rare interview with China’s official Xinhua news service published Tuesday, the chairman of Xinjiang’s government, Shohrat Zakir, defended the use of the centres, saying that the region was now “safe and stable”.

The official did not say how many people were being held in the centres.

“Through vocational training, most trainees have been able to reflect on their mistakes and see clearly the essence and harm of terrorism and religious extremism,” he said.

Zakir said the facilities were intended to improve job skills and Mandarin abilities among minorities with “a limited command of the country’s common language and a limited sense and knowledge of the law”.

Those who struggled to find work as a result, he added, were “vulnerable to the instigation and coercion of terrorism and extremism.”

He said that the “free” programmes were limited in duration, “trainees” signed a contract with the centres that laid out a clear plan of study and included a stipend.

Asked about the future of the programmes, Zakir said “some trainees” were “expected to complete their courses successfully by the end of this year.”


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