Crackdown in Xinjiang prevented another Syria or Libya, says China's state media

Men install a CCTV camera in a shopping street in the old town of Kashgar Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region China

A Human Rights Watch report said efforts to snuff out the "outside influences" and "religious extremism" - recently enabled by high-tech mass surveillance technologies - had developed into a campaign far broader and much more arbitrary against anyone suspected of political disloyalty, which in Xinjiang could mean any Uighur, particularly those who express, even peacefully, their religious or cultural identity.

The rare admission from Beijing - at a United Nations meeting in Geneva - came in response to concerns that the region "resembles a massive internment camp".

China has rejected claims one million of its mostly Muslim Uighur minority are being held in internment camps, while it has also insisted "there are no such things" as re-education centres.

The latest alleged crackdown follows a spate of largely small scale incidents of violence, including protests and attacks on police officers, which the Chinese authorities have blamed on Muslim Uyghur separatists seeking to establish an independent state.

In his response, Hu Lianhe, deputy director of China's United Front Work Department of the Communist Party Central Committee, said: "Xinjiang citizens, including the Uighurs, enjoy equal freedom and rights".

In the name of combating religious extremism, China had turned Xinjiang into "something resembling a massive internment camp, shrouded in secrecy, a sort of no-rights zone", Gay McDougall, a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, said in the opening session of a two-day review of China's policies in Geneva.

It said: "the argument that a million Uighurs are detained in re-education centers is completely untrue".

This is not a couple of hundred people - it is more than 1 million to 3 million in detention. "Please tell me", she said.


In joint editorials in Chinese and English, the Global Times newspaper on August 13 said criticism of the rights record in Xinjiang was an attempt to stir trouble in the region and endanger its stability.

"Politicians and media outlets of the U.S. and other Western countries have been lashing out intensively at China's governance of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region recently, claiming massive human rights violations in Xinjiang and comparing the region to an open-air prison".

An ethnic Uighur looks at the old town in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 23, 2017.

Non-government sources say that more than a million Uyghurs are now being held, without any kind of trial, at camps in Xinjiang, with entire villages and neighborhoods in cities like Urumqi turned to ghost towns.

Reports that more and more Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are being detained in Xinjiang have been circulating for some months.

In today's Xinjiang, growing a beard, praying regularly, or contacting people overseas could all lead to one being sentenced to prison or sent to the so-called "re-education camps" to undergo "thought transformation through education", the report said.

In May, pictures were spread on social media of Uyghur Muslims being forced to welcome Communist Party officials into their homes, to "maintain social stability and achieve lasting security".

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