Treatment of Uighur minority has been heavily criticised in the west but Wang Yang says ‘high pressure’ must be maintained
Xinjiang needs to “perfect” stability maintenance measures and crack down on religious extremism, the ruling Communist party’s fourth-ranked leader has said on a tour of the region where China is running a controversial deradicalisation programme.
Critics say China is operating internment camps for Uighurs and other Muslim peoples who live in Xinjiang, though the government calls them vocational training centres and says it has a genuine need to prevent extremist thinking and violence.
The government has not said how many people are in these centres. Adrian Zenz, a leading independent researcher on China’s ethnic policies, said this month an estimated 1.5 million Uighurs and other Muslims could be held in the centres in Xinjiang, up from his earlier figure of 1 million.
During a visit on 20-25 March to Xinjiang, including Kashgar and Tumxuk in the strongly Uighur southern part of the region, Wang Yang said the situation in Xinjiang was “continuing to develop well”, the official Xinjiang Daily said on Tuesday.
Authorities “must perfect stability-maintenance measures, and maintain high pressure on the ‘three forces’,” the paper cited Wang as saying, referring to terrorism, extremism and separatism.
“Correctly implement the party’s policy on ethnic minorities, resolutely oppose and crack down on ethnic separatist forces,” said Wang, who heads the high profile but largely ceremonial advisory body to China’s parliament. “Resolutely oppose and crack down on religious extremist thought, and at the same time ensure the normal religious needs of believers in accordance with the law.”
The report made no mention of the deradicalisation centres.
China has been stepping up a push to counter growing criticism in the west and among rights groups about the programme in heavily Muslim Xinjiang, inviting foreign diplomats and media on closely chaperoned tours.
However, European Union ambassadors in Beijing will not visit Xinjiang this week despite receiving a government invitation, because such a trip needs “careful preparation”, a spokesperson for the bloc said on Monday.
A US official told Reuters that “highly choreographed” tours to Xinjiang organised by the Chinese government were misleading and propagated false narratives about the region.
Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the main exiled group, the World Uyghur Congress, said the invite to EU officials was a “political trick” meant to deflect pressure from the international community.
“We hope the EU officials could use this opportunity to ask for an unobstructed deep understanding of the situation on the ground, and refuse China’s specially orchestrated political show,” he said in a statement.