Beijing wants to "perfect" repression in Xinjiang

A member of the Communist Party visiting the region said that Xinjiang needs to "perfect" measures to maintain stability and suppress religious extremism. European ambassadors were invited to a 'guided' tour of the region.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Xinjiang needs to “perfect” stability maintenance measures and crack down on religious extremism, said Wang Yang, the ruling Communist party’s fourth-ranked leader, on a tour of the region where China is running a controversial deradicalisation programme.

During his 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 reported on Tuesday.

Wang, who is a member of the Politburo Standing Committee and chairs the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, spoke the policy is designed to "Correctly implement the party’s policy on ethnic minorities, resolutely oppose and crack down on ethnic separatist forces" as well as " 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."

Critics are saying that China is operating internment camps for Uighurs and other Muslim groups who live in Xinjiang. The government calls them vocational training centres and claims 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.

At the same time, China has been stepping up a push to counter growing criticism in the West and among human rights groups about the programme in heavily Muslim Xinjiang, inviting foreign diplomats, including European ambassadors, and media on closely chaperoned tours.

Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the main exiled group, the World Uighur Congress, said the invitation 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.

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.