China rejects mass detention of Muslims in Xinjiang

Published 13.02.2019 00:21

Chinese Ambassador to Ankara Deng Li rejected claims of mass detention camps and strict surveillance of the mostly Muslim Uighur minority and other Muslim groups in Xinjiang, emphasizing that these are vocational courses aiming to integrate the minorities.

Speaking at a press conference in Ankara amid growing ire within Turkish society and some international rights groups, the ambassador said the alleged mistreatment of Uighurs and other Muslim groups has been distorted and deliberately exaggerated.

"In these vocational courses, people in the region learn Chinese as an official language and the rule of law principle. We aim to prevent radicalization by helping them earn a profession," he said.

Beijing has faced outcry from activists, scholars, foreign governments and U.N. rights experts over what they call detention centers in Xinjiang.

China denied the existence of the so-called "detention" facilities for months before saying they were in fact vocational training centers designed to combat religious extremism and the country has been increasingly active in defending its actions.

Answering questions over the latest status of Abdurehim Heyit, a Uighur poet and musician who some claim died in custody, the ambassador said the latest video showed Heyit is alive and confessing himself that he violated "national security."

Regarding the condition of other detainees, he said it is not possible to make generalizations regarding why they are being held in the camps and each case should be examined specifically.

Earlier this week, Chinese state media released a video it said proves Heyit is alive, after Turkey cited reports of his death in custody in a strongly worded condemnation of "human rights violations" in Xinjiang.

In the 26-second video posted online by China Radio International's Turkish language service late Sunday, a man dressed in a grey sweater identifies himself as Heyit before declaring himself to be in "good health."

Uighur diaspora activists said Heyit's body language and unnatural speech patterns in the video suggested his testimony may have been coerced and that digital alteration could not be ruled out. International rights groups say China routinely coerces detainees into making videotaped confessions, which are then broadcast through state media to serve the government's propaganda objectives.

A social media campaign launched yesterday under the hashtag #MeTooUyghur followed the release of a state media video of Heyit, where after China released the video of Heyit, other Uighur Muslims called on China to post videos of their relatives who have disappeared in custody.

The Chinese ambassador did not confirm the exact number of camps or the number of people who are obligated to attend these so-called courses, adding that it is a "pre-emptive measure" against people endangering the national security of the country.

"Of course, we do not consider all Uighurs terrorists. People who do not commit crimes but are posing a risk to national security have been recruited in these vocational courses," said the ambassador.

He added that the Chinese government will increase efforts to provide more accurate information from the region.

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