China has strongly rejected all accusations of large-scale human rights abuses against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, claiming at a UN session that mass detention centres in the province are actually training “campuses” which would eventually be downsized.

China’s vice-foreign minister, Le Yucheng, leading a delegation to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday, called international criticism against the “campuses” as “ill-intentioned accusations against vocational training centres in Xinjiang”.

“The training centres…are actually boarding schools or campuses, and not camps as claimed by the ill-intentioned few,” Le was quoted by news agencies as saying, and emphasising Beijing’s official line that the “camps” were set up to educate and rehabilitate locals susceptible of falling “prey to terrorist extremism”.

He claimed that there had been “thousands” of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang since the 1990s, but that thanks to the use of the “vocational training centres” not a single attack had taken place in the past 27 months.

“As the counter-terrorism situation improves, the training program will be gradually downsized, leading to its completion,” he said.

Le was echoing what the chairperson or governor of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) Shohrat Zakir said on the sidelines of the annual Parliament session in Beijing earlier this week.

“Our education and training centres have been set up according to our needs. The students that come in to learn, it’s a dynamic number that changes… As a whole, the number of people in the education centres should be less and less, and if one-day society no longer needs it, these education centres can gradually disappear,” Zakir said.

Le’s comments at the UN was part of China’s response to more than 200 recommendations by other countries on ways that Beijing could improve human rights as part of a Human Rights Council process known as the Universal Periodic Review, or UPR.

Le said China had accepted 82 per cent of the recommendations presented during the review last November.

The council formally adopted the review of China without a vote on Friday.

“The US State Department this week said China ‘significantly intensified’ a campaign of mass detentions over the last year, with between 800,000 and 2 million people from the XUAR interned in camps,” the Associated Press said in a report from Geneva.

First Published:
Mar 16, 2019 20:31 IST

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