West trying to smear China over Xinjiang detention centres – newspaper

Beijing says centres are for vocational training to steer youth away from extremism

The West is trying to smear the Chinese government and is guilty of double standards in the way it reports on detention centres in the troubled western region of Xinjiang, the official China Daily newspaper said in an editorial.

Human rights groups, foreign governments and a United Nations panel have accused Beijing of operating mass detention centres and carrying out strict surveillance of the mostly Muslim ethnic Uighur minority in Xinjiang. The UN panel believes more than one million people have been arbitrarily detained.

US vice president Mike Pence has also accused China of religious persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang and of illegally imprisoning and brainwashing Muslims.

“When it comes to the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region [XUAR], it seems that two exist: one is the reality; the other is the one portrayed in the Western media,” the editorial said in the English-language publication.


“The allegations they make to present their false picture of the region are aimed at smearing the Chinese government. These are nothing new and indeed are now somewhat stale, as they have been used for this purpose many times before. It has become routine practice for the West to take issue with this or that in China’s national and religious affairs to portray an authoritarian system that denies people’s liberties,” it said.

China’s policy in Xinjiang should be welcomed by the West as “a meaningful contribution to the global fight against terrorism” that meant Xinjiang had not suffered a violent attack in 21 consecutive months, the editorial said.

Vocational centres

China initially denied operating the facilities, but has since described them as vocational centres, where young minor offenders are steered away from Islamic extremism and separatism.

It said young Muslims in the less developed part of the region lack education and skills and are vulnerable to “extremist propaganda promoted from overseas”.

This week, Shohrat Zakir, the number two Communist Party cadre and most senior ethnic Uighur in Xinjiang, said the inmates had been transformed by their time in the facilities.

The Chinese government points to the economic success of the region as proof its crackdown in Xinjiang is paying off. Official data shows the economy in Xinjiang grew 7.6 per cent, above the national figure of 6.8 per cent, and tourist arrivals were up 40 per cent.

‘Systematic repression’

Amnesty International said that to describe the camps as vocational centres was "an insult to both those suffering in the camps and the families of those missing".

"No amount of spin can hide the fact that the Chinese authorities are undertaking a campaign of systematic repression in the XUAR with up to one million people arbitrarily detained," said Patrick Poon, China researcher at Amnesty International.

“The mass internment camps are primarily places of punishment and torture, not learning. There are consistent reports of beatings, food deprivation and solitary confinement,” he said.

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing