BEIJING • A Communist Party-run newspaper issued a harsh rebuke to critics of China's security crackdown on its Muslim-dominated frontier, arguing that the authorities had saved the region from becoming another Syria.
The Global Times said in an editorial yesterday that China's actions helped "salvage" the far western region of Xinjiang, which was on "the verge of massive turmoil".
"It has avoided the fate of becoming 'China's Syria' or 'China's Libya'," the paper said in both its Chinese and English editions.
The Global Times, a nationalistic tabloid published by the party's People's Daily newspaper, said Xinjiang had "no room for destructive Western public opinions".
"We must hold on to our belief that keeping turmoil away from Xinjiang is the greatest human right," the paper said.
The pushback follows a United Nations hearing last Friday in Geneva, where a member of the body's racial discrimination committee cited "credible reports" that China was holding as many as one million members of the Uighur minority in camps.
The issue has also drawn criticism from American officials including Vice-President Mike Pence and Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who described the situation in Xinjiang as "like a horrible movie".
Xinjiang, a vast region bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan, is home to about 10 million Uighurs.
Spurred on by President Xi Jinping's orders to "strike first" against Islamist extremism after deadly attacks involving Uighurs in 2013 and 2014, as well as reports of some fighting in Syria, the region has become one of the world's most heavily policed places.
While the Global Times does not necessarily reflect the views of the Communist Party leaders, its editor-in-chief, Mr Hu Xijin, has said the paper voices opinions that official sources cannot.
The paper has previously published editorials defending the growth of surveillance in Xinjiang, as well as the relocation of hundreds of thousands of residents.
The commentaries contrast with statements from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which have so far avoided commenting directly on the regional security push.
Asked about the re-education camps in a regular briefing last month, ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the government "fully respects people's religious freedom, and we guarantee that in accordance with the law".
"All ethnic groups and the people in all regions in China enjoy full freedom of religious belief," Mr Geng said.
During UN hearings, Mr Yu Jianhua, China's ambassador to the UN's Geneva mission, cited economic progress and improved living standards in Xinjiang as evidence of the country's fair treatment.