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US Denounces China’s Justification of Uighur Re-Education Camps

FILE - Uighurs and their supporters rally across the street from United Nations headquarters in New York, March 15, 2018.
FILE - Uighurs and their supporters rally across the street from United Nations headquarters in New York, March 15, 2018.

The United States has condemned efforts by China at the U.N. Human Rights Council to justify its incarceration of a reported million Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in 're-education' camps in Xinjiang Province.

After introducing himself as an ethnic Uighur, the vice governor of Xinjiang province in China, painted an idyllic picture of life there. Aierken Tuniyazi told diplomats at the U.N. Human Rights Council that 25 million people, encompassing many ethnic groups and religions, lived in solidarity, harmony and mutual assistance.

He said people in Xinjiang are united as closely as the seeds of a pomegranate. He said China had lifted 2.3 million people out of poverty in the province. He said religious beliefs were protected by law and ethnic minority languages were taught in schools and widely used in social and public forums.

Despite the progress, he noted China was confronted by many challenges from ethnic separatism, terrorism and religious extremism. He said that has led to thousands of terrorist attacks, many deaths and immeasurable property damage. In the face of those threats, he said China has been forced to crack down on violent and terrorist crimes and take preventive measures. He spoke through an interpreter.

“By setting up vocational, education and training centers in accordance with the law, we aim to educate and save those who are influenced by religious extremism and committed minor legal offenses…The centers provide courses on the country’s common language, legal knowledge and vocational skills and integrated de-radicalization throughout the entire education and training process," said Tuniyazi.

The United States called China’s vice governor’s remarks an embarrassment to the council. A statement issued by the U.S. Mission here in Geneva accused the council of once again granting a representative of one of the world’s worst human rights abusers a platform for propaganda.

The U.S. expressed alarm at China’s highly repressive campaign against the Uighurs and other ethnic groups in Xinjiang.

It accused the Chinese government of subjecting more than one million people in so-called re-education camps to torture, pervasive, high-tech surveillance, and measures to efface their cultural and religious identities.