Tue, Mar 19, 2019 - Page 1 News List

China says 13,000 Xinjiang ‘terrorists’ arrested since 2014

AP, BEIJING

Residents watch a convoy of security personnel and armored vehicles in a show of force through central Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang region on Nov. 5, 2017.

Photo: AP

China has arrested nearly 13,000 people it describes as terrorists and has broken up hundreds of “terrorist gangs” in Xinjiang since 2014, the government said in a report issued yesterday to counter criticism of internment camps and other oppressive security in the traditionally Islamic region.

The lengthy report said that the Chinese government’s efforts have curbed religious extremism, but gave little evidence of what crimes had occurred.

The far northwestern region is closed to outsiders, but former residents and activists abroad say mere expressions of Muslim identity are punished.

Criticism has grown over China’s internment of an estimated 1 million Uighurs and members of other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups. China describes the camps as vocational training centers and says participation is voluntary.

Former detainees say they were held in abusive conditions, forced to renounce Islam and swear allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party.

The camps sprang up over the past two years at extraordinary speed and on a massive scale, as monitored by satellite imagery. China maintains a massive security presence in Xinjiang and efforts to independently verify claims by Uighur activists are routinely blocked.

The new report said that “law-based deradicalization” in Xinjiang has curbed the rise and spread of religious extremism.

It said that 1,588 terrorist gangs have been crushed and 12,995 terrorists seized since 2014.

Over that time, 2,052 explosive devices were seized and more than 30,000 people were punished for taking part in almost 5,000 “illegal religious activities,” it said.

It said 345,229 copies of “illegal religious publicity materials” were also seized.

The report sought to underplay Islam’s role in the region’s historical makeup, saying that while it “cannot be denied that Xinjiang received the influence of Islamic culture,” that did not change the “objective fact” that Xinjiang’s culture is a facet of Chinese culture.

“Islam is not the natural faith of the Uighurs and other ethnicities, nor is it their only faith,” it said.

The report shows the “vague and broad definition of ‘terrorism’ and ‘extremism’ by the Chinese government,” said Patrick Poon (潘嘉偉), a China researcher for Amnesty International.

“It’s exactly because of the Chinese government’s arbitrary and vague definition of these terms that leads to mass arbitrary detention of many ordinary people in Xinjiang,” Poon said.

World Uyghur Congress spokesman Dilxat Raxit said that China was using the specter of terrorism in an attempt to undermine sympathy for the Uighur cause.

“The purpose of issuing this report is to seek support for their extreme policies and the trampling of human rights,” Raxit said.

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