China is using all possible means to erase the Uighur ethno-religious identity, according to a Uighur activist in exile.
"Millions of Uighurs have been locked up by China in Nazi-like camps in East Turkistan," Seyit Tümtürk, head of the East Turkistan National Assembly, said late Friday, the 10th anniversary of the Urumqi riots.
Several days of violent riots broke out on July 5, 2009 in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in northwestern China. Dozens were killed in the riots and hundreds were arrested.
Tümtürk said China is trying to wipe out the Uighur identity by destroying its culture through such actions as banning the Uighur alphabet, demolishing mosques, and erasing its historic heritage.
"Our boys have been tortured, our girls have been forced to marry Han Chinese, and our children have been sent to orphanages, just because they are Turkic Muslim," he added.
For years China lied about its "vocational camps" despite reports by the UN and EU, Tümtürk stressed but eventually admitted their existence.
The Uighur should not be left to China's mercy, he stressed.
China's Xinjiang region is home to around 10 million Uighurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45% of Xinjiang's population, has long accused China's authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.
Up to one million people, or about 7% of the Muslim population in Xinjiang, have been incarcerated in an expanding network of "political re-education" camps, according to U.S. officials and UN experts.
In a report released last September, Human Rights Watch accused the Chinese government of carrying out a "systematic campaign of human rights violations" against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.