Xinjiang camps' deradicalisation training done, say top officials

Governor blasts US for sowing discord, curbing China's growth

Xinjiang governor Shohrat Zakir at a news conference in Beijing yesterday, during which he hit out at the US for violating international law and interfering in China's internal affairs.
Xinjiang governor Shohrat Zakir at a news conference in Beijing yesterday, during which he hit out at the US for violating international law and interfering in China's internal affairs.PHOTO: REUTERS

All those held at Xinjiang's controversial training centres have graduated from its deradicalisation programme, and the autonomous region will now embark on another phase of training that is more ad hoc, said its top officials yesterday.

The new initiative, 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 news conference, Xinjiang's second-highest official, Mr Shohrat Zakir, also lambasted the United States 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 the scrapping of Xinjiang's deradicalisation camps last week.

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

Besides a spate of editorials, state media has also harnessed international allies to denounce the US move.

"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."

China says its vocational centres are necessary to curb the spread of radical religious ideology in the region, which it says has borne the brunt of "several thousand acts of terrorism", including bombings, assassinations and riots, between 1990 and the end of 2016.

 
 

Those who have gone through the training centre's programme, which includes learning Chinese and vocational instruction, are leading happy and fulfilling lives, said Mr Shohrat.

He also dismissed reports that up to two million people have been interned in these detention camps, calling the reports "groundless fabrication".

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

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

Yesterday, 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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2019, with the headline 'Xinjiang camps' deradicalisation training done, say top officials'. Subscribe