For the first time a government official admits that the camps are "temporary measures". But claims the inmates are "less than a million". Kazakh activist arrested in his country: he will be tried because he revealed the existence of concentration camps.
Beijing (AsiaNews) - The "vocational training centers" of Xinjiang, which many countries call "concentration camps" for the Uyghur population, "will gradually disappear,” says Shohrat Zakir, president of the Xinjiang government yesterday at a meeting on the sidelines of the National People's Congress, in the capital.
Human rights groups and foreign governments have long accused China of holding at least one million Uyghurs in these concentration camps, where they are subjected to re-education, along with torture and deprivation, as witnessed by various exiles.
So far, Beijing has always defended itself by saying that the centers serve as a "preventive measure against extremism" by requalifying the work and lifestyle of the Uyghurs.
It is the first time that a government official has said that the "vocational training" fields are a "temporary measure".
China has been criticized over the camps by Islamic countries in Asia, including Turkey, Pakistan, the Organization of the Islamic conference, as well as from the United States and European countries.
Zakir has not communicated the number of inmates, but said that they are "very far from one million", although UN researchers confirm the figure of one million.
The detainees include Muslims and groups of people from neighboring countries, including Kyrgyz and Kazakhs. Some of them, following their release, have reported that inmates are used as cheap labor for products sold abroad.
The great Chinese commercial power manages to silence or dismiss the criticisms of various Islamic countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as European and Central Asian countries. In Kazakhstan, activist Serikjan Bilash, of the AtaZhurt NGO ("motherland", in Kazakh), was arrested on 9 March and is now under judicial investigation. He is suspected of "inciting hatred, discord in international affairs, racial or religious". Bilash is one of the first to have reported the concentration camps in Xinjiang and has become the spokesman for many people in Kazakhstan who demand news from China about their relatives or neighbors interned in the camps.