A Chinese official has denied that over 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities are being held in re-education camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The official, Hu Lianhe, was answering questions Monday raised by the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Hu told the group, “The argument that 1 million are detained in re-education centers is completely untrue.” Hu said officials in Xinjiang officials protect the human rights of all citizens equally. But Hu also said that “those who are deceived by religious extremism…shall be assisted through resettlement and education.”
Last Friday, UN committee member Gay McDougall cited reports that estimate 1.1 million people in Xinjiang are being held in political re-education camps. McDougall also noted reports of an additional 2 million people being required to take part in “open re-education camps.” Those people are permitted to return to their homes each evening. The camps are considered outside of China’s legal system.
The Associated Press has reported that many remain in camps for months without formally being charged with anything. Chinese government officials say they are fighting a rise in Islamic extremism as well as a separatist movement that calls for an independent Uyghur nation. Earlier on Monday, the state-run Global Times newspaper said the country’s security measures in Xinjiang have helped prevent “great tragedy.”
It said such measures have stopped Xinjiang from becoming “China’s Syria.” McDougall noted on Monday that China did not “deny” that re-education programs are taking place. “You said that was false, the 1 million. Well, how many were there? Please tell me,” McDougall said. “And what were the laws on which they were detained?”
In recent years, China has introduced one of the world’s most aggressive policing programs in Xinjiang. Security checkpoints and high-tech surveillance cameras are everywhere. Since April 2017, witnesses and rights groups have reported that large numbers of Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang have been “disappeared” and sent to so-called re-education camps.
Last week, the New York Times reported that one of the best-known experts of Uyghur culture, Rahile Dawut, has not been heard from for eight months. Family, friends and others feel sure the professor is being secretly held in a re-education camp.