Authorities in China’s far-western Xinjiang province appear to have officially legalized so-called “re-education camps” for people accused of religious extremism, just over a month after it denied any such centers exist.
Human rights organizations have long alleged the Chinese government has been detaining hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs — a Turkic-speaking, largely Muslim minority native to Xinjiang — in such centers, as part of an effort to enforce patriotism and loyalty to Beijing in the region.
In a report on August 29, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed alarm at numerous reports of Uyghurs and other Muslims being held for long periods of time, without charge or trial, “under the pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism.”
The Chinese government has forcefully maintained the reports aren’t true and there is “no arbitrary detention or lack of freedom of religion or belief.”
“Xinjiang citizens including the Uyghurs enjoy equal freedoms and rights,” Hu Lianhe, a spokesman for China’s United Front Work Department, told the UN panel.
In the revised Xinjiang law, Article 33 stipulates that “institutions such as vocational skill education training centers should carry out trainings on the common national language, laws and regulations, and vocational skills, and carry out anti-extremist ideological education, and psychological and behavioral correction to promote thought transformation of trainees, and help them return to the society and family.”
The updated law all but acknowledges the growing reports of mass detentions inside Xinjiang, where former detainees claim they were forced to yell patriotic slogans, sing revolutionary songs and study Chinese President Xi Jinping’s teachings.