China defends Xinjiang centers for Muslims, but seeks to "downsize"


GENEVA (Reuters) – Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Yucheng on Friday defended what China calls its vocational training centers for Muslims in Xinjiang.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng, talks with the media after the Universal Periodic Review of China by the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva on 15 March 2019. REUTERS / Stephanie Nebehay

China has faced a growing international opprobrium for centers that American experts describe as detention centers sheltering more than one million Uighurs and other Muslims. Beijing said measures were needed to stem the threat of Islamist militancy.

Addressing the UN Human Rights Council, Mr. Le said the Xinjiang authorities had taken measures to crack down on "violent terrorist crimes" and adopt "de-radicalization measures". There has been no violent terrorism in the last 27 months, he added.

"As the counterterrorism situation improves, the training program will be progressively reduced, which will lead to its completion.

"Without our decisive measures, violent terrorist attacks would have multiplied in Xinjiang and would have spread to other places in China … and in other parts of the world," Le told the forum. Geneva.

Norway expressed dismay at China's lack of transparency on religious minorities in Xinjiang and called for United Kingdom observers to have access to "places of internment". Pakistan hailed "China's efforts to provide care for its Muslim citizens".

Xinjiang is a vast border region of Central Asia that is home to millions of ethnic minority Muslims.

Adrian Zenz, a leading independent researcher on China's ethnic policies, said on Wednesday that he was estimated at 1.5 million Uighurs and other Muslims detained in Xinjiang centers, compared to 1 million previously. [nL8N2105O9]

"EXTREMISTIC IDEOLOGY"

The, asked how many people were in the centers and when China would close them, gave no figures but told reporters: "They will not be here forever, the goal is to get rid of the Extremist ideology in Xinjiang ".

They are "not a concentration camp," but rather "campuses," he said, adding that last month he visited three Xinjiang centers with dormitories, a library, and family visits. .

It rejected as interference the delegations' recommendations concerning Xinjiang, but accepted those concerning the need to defend freedom of religion, freedom of expression and freedom of the Internet.

The activists expressed outrage at China's conduct at the five-year American conference, which, according to Kai Mueller of the International Campaign for Tibet, "ridiculed this important mechanism." The forum examines the rights registers of each member state of the United States every five years.

John Fisher of Human Rights Watch said, "Under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese authorities have canceled essential legal gains, restricted the space reserved for independent civil society and launched an unprecedented arbitrary detention campaign for Turkish Muslims.

"An independent international assessment is urgently needed," he said.

China's claims that the recommendations on fundamental freedoms have been accepted and already implemented are "insidious," said Sarah Brooks of the International Service for Human Rights.

Reportage of Stephanie Nebehay; Edited by Alison Williams and Frances Kerry

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