Training completed at Xinjiang’s re-education camps: Officials

Xinjiang governor Shohrat Zakir told reporters in Beijing that foreign media estimates of the number of people in camps were "pure fabrication", and accused the US of launching a smear campaign against the region. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - All students at Xinjiang's controversial training centres have graduated from its three-prong programme involving learning Chinese, picking up vocational skills and deradicalisation, and the autonomous region will now embark on another phase of training that is more ad-hoc, say its top officials on Monday.

The new programme, aimed at grassroots cadres, farmers and the unemployed, will "adhere to the principles of respect for will, independent choice and the freedom to come and go" and involve language-learning and vocational training.

In a hastily-called news conference on Monday (Dec 9), Xinjiang's No. 2 official, Shohrat Zakir, also lambasted the US for violating international law and interfering in China's internal affairs by passing legislation sanctioning Chinese officials for their treatment of the Uighur Muslim minority.

Tensions deepened between Washington and Beijing after the US pushed through laws supporting the Hong Kong democracy movement and Uighur rights last week.

China has since cranked up its propaganda machinery, with state-run media producing a series of documentaries showing, for the first time, graphic footage of various terrorist attacks by Xinjiang's extremists.

"When the lives and safety of the Xinjiang people were under severe threat, the US chose to turn a blind eye. Now that Xinjiang people enjoy happiness and peace, the US is getting restless and launching a smear campaign against Xinjiang and using the Bill and related issues to sow discord among ethnic groups and curb China's development," said Mr Shohrat, the region's governor.

"Any attempt to destabilise Xinjiang is doomed to fail."

He also dismissed reports that up to two million people are interned in detention camps, calling them "groundless fabrication".

While he did not answer questions about how many people are at these training centres, Mr Shohrat said the number was dynamic "as people come and go".

China has come under pressure over Xinjiang after hundreds of pages of supposedly classified official documents were leaked to foreign media in late November, detailing surveillance and operations of detention camps of the region's Uighur population.

On Monday, Urumqi party boss Xu Hairong called the media reports "malicious attempts to smear Xinjiang" and said the region's successful counter-terrorism efforts should be recognised by the international community.

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