BEIJING: China on Monday defended its controversial security crackdown in the fractious far west region of Xinjiang, saying nearly 13,000 “terrorists” have been arrested there since 2014, reports AFP.
Beijing has come under international criticism over its policies in the region, where as many as one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities are being held in internment camps, according to human rights groups.
The document states that Xinjiang has long been part of Chinese territory but that “terrorist and extremist forces” have fomented separatist activities by “falsifying” the region’s history.
“Since 2014, Xinjiang has destroyed 1,588 violent and terrorist gangs, arrested 12,995 terrorists, seized 2,052 explosive devices, punished 30,645 people for 4,858 illegal religious activities, and confiscated 345,229 copies of illegal religious materials,” according to the white paper.
“The counter-terrorism work and the de-extremism struggle in Xinjiang have always been carried out in accordance with the rule of law.” A emphasis is also on “preventive counter-terrorism”, the document said, including setting up “education centres” to “eliminate terrorist activities before they are launched”.
The paper was quickly condemned by a Uighur rights group, which called it a “a political excuse to suppress the Uighurs”.
“The purpose of releasing the so-called white paper is a means of getting local support for its extreme policies and to cover up human rights abuses,” Dilxat Raxit, spokesman of the exiled World Uyghur Congress, said in a statement.
China has previously denied the presence of internment camps, but have in recent months shifted to calling them “vocational education centres” akin to boarding schools, with students checking in voluntarily.
The “preventive measures” have brought a “marked change” in the region, with people having “a much stronger sense of fulfilment, happiness and security,” the white paper said.