Some questions and answers about Xinjiang

In the past decade, the surge in religious extremism around the world has caused a rise in religious extremism in Xinjiang.

August 13, 2019 02:53
3 minute read.
Sun penetrating the clouds above the mountains near Chengdu, China. "It looks like Genesis to me," s

Sun penetrating the clouds above the mountains near Chengdu, China. "It looks like Genesis to me," says Tomer. (photo credit: TOMER ZADOK)

The article “Turkey’s support for Uygurs is a sham,” published in The Jerusalem Post on August 4 raised concerns about human rights and freedom of religious belief of the minorities in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region of China. Unfortunately, some arguments in the article are not true. I would like to clarify some questions regarding Xinjiang.

1. How has the security situation changed in Xinjiang?

In the past decade, the surge in religious extremism around the world has caused a rise in religious extremism in Xinjiang. Terrorist and extremist forces have launched thousands of terrorist attacks in the region. On July 5, 2009, insurgents inside and outside China engineered a riot in Urumqi, resulting in 197 deaths and injuries to over 1,700.

Faced with that severe situation, the Chinese government struck harshly at all forms of terrorism while, at the same time, launching a series of de-radicalization efforts which achieved remarkable results. No violent or terrorist activities have occurred in Xinjiang for the past three years; the number of criminal and public security cases has fallen significantly; the infiltration of extremism has been significantly curbed.

2. What are the so called ‘reeducation camps?’

First of all, there are no “reeducation camps” in Xinjiang. With the goal of de-radicalization, the Chinese government established some education and training centers in accordance with the law. The centers’ curricula consists of reading and writing, law studies as well as vocational skills, and are offered free of charge to the trainees who have been under the influence of extremism for free. Most of the trainees have returned home after completing their studies and more than 90% of them have found jobs with decent salaries.

The idea of establishing education and training centers is based on international anti-terrorism practices and experiences. It is similar practice to the United Kingdom’s counter-terrorism strategy “Prevent,” the United States’ program “Community Correction” and the “Entrepreneurship Education” program initiated by the UN’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism.

3. Are the people in Xinjiang enjoying freedom of religious belief?

Absolutely. China is a unified multiethnic country. There are 47 ethnic groups, including the Uygurs, living in the region of Xinjiang, and all of them are Chinese citizens. In Xinjiang, different cultures and religions coexist, and Islam is neither an indigenous nor the sole belief system of the Uygurs. The government fully respects and protects freedom of religious belief as stipulated in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, and respects citizens’ freedom to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion.

In Xinjiang, there are about 24,400 mosques, more than those in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France combined, second to Indonesia, the country home to 200 million Muslims. The Chinese government organizes pilgrimages to Mecca by chartered planes every year for thousands of Chinese Muslims, translates and publishes Islamic classic works in various languages including Mandarin, Uygur, Kazakh and Kyrgyz.

Last month, 51 ambassadors to the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) co-signed a letter to the president of the UN Human Rights Council and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, voicing their support for China’s position on issues related to Xinjiang. Other countries expressed support in separate letters and press releases. They commended China for its effective counter-terrorism and de-radicalization measures, and strong guarantee of human rights.

It is worth mentioning that among the 51 signatories, 28 are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIS). Facts speak louder than words. Those Islamic countries wouldn’t show their unequivocal support for China’s policies towards Xinjiang if they didn’t trust the Chinese government’s firm stance on counter-terrorism and de-radicalization, and its unwavering protection of its Muslim minorities’ rights.

The writer is the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in Israel.

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