Beijing, Dec 21 (efe-epa).- China on Monday categorically denied the existence of forced labor camps or the oppression of religious practices in the Uighur region of Xinjiang, saying these were “accusations without any foundation” that “outrage” the people of the area.
At a press conference in Beijing on the situation in the autonomous region, the first to be held in the capital city for international media in years, Xinjiang government leaders strongly criticized recent reports by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).
Using satellite photos, ASPI said it had identified up to 380 “detention centers” in the region and claimed that the network of these facilities was larger than estimated and was growing, as was the use of forced labor.
“There is no forced labor in the region, it is ridiculous,” Xinjiang government spokesman Elijan Anayat said at the press conference at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, to which only a small group of international media, including Efe, were given access.
Both Anayat and the deputy director general of the Information Department of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Xinjiang, Xu Guixiang, also rejected the label of “re-education camps”.
“There are no such camps, but rather vocational training centers in line with international anti-terrorism regulations,” Xu said, insisting that these establishments are no different from the de-radicalization centers tested in France or those that already exist in the United Kingdom and the United States.
The regional authorities refused to specify how many of these centers there are in Xinjiang, as well as the number of people they house in total.
“It’s a lie that people are detained in these centers, they can leave and when they graduate they find an occupation on the outside,” he said, adding that accusations to the contrary “lack any evidence to support it.”
For his part, Obulhassan Turusunniyaz, one of the religious leaders of the Jamah Mosque in Hotan Prefecture, said that “no body oppresses or discriminates against citizens because of their religious activities, but rather protects them”.
Asked by Efe about the numerous surveillance cameras that, according to different testimonies, watch over the entrance of the mosques in the region, Turusunniyaz denied that they serve to identify and surveil the people who come to pray but is designed “for their safety, to prevent terrorism and violent struggle.”