Chinese President Xi Jinping has doubled down on China’s policies towards Uighurs in the country’s western Xinjiang
region despite international condemnation.
“Facts prove that the party’s policies on Xinjiang in the new era are completely correct and must be adhered to in the long term,” the official Xinhua News Agency quoted Xi as saying during a work meeting held in Beijing on Friday and Saturday.
The international community has piled pressure on China over its treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, where
the United Nations estimated hundreds of thousands of members of the ethnic minority could be held in “re-education camps.” Beijing has defended the camps as “vocational education centres” intended to “purge ideological diseases,” including terrorism and religious extremism.
The Trump administration has already sanctioned several dozens of Chinese companies and high-ranking officials over the forced detentions of Muslim Uighurs. French President Emmanuel Macron called on the United Nations to lead a mission to China to inspect human-rights practices in the region.
China has disputed outside population estimates of the camps, without providing figures of its own. The facilities were built after a spate of deadly attacks involving Uighurs in 2013 and 2014, prompting President Xi to order authorities to “strike first” against extremism.
A report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) last week showed that China is continuing to invest in the detention camps, despite officials saying earlier that all students have “graduated.” In all, the research institute identified 380 suspected detention facilities built since 2017 in the region, which is roughly the size of Alaska and home to an estimated 10 million Turkic-speaking Uighurs.
Chinese state media and diplomats have frequently attacked the credibility of ASPI, which was established by the Australian government in 2001 and has disclosed additional funding from global defense contractors and Western diplomatic missions.
Xi also pledged to accelerate the economic development of the Xinjiang autonomous region while calling for a stronger understanding of the Chinese identity.
The country will include the region’s opening-up strategy into the broader growth agenda of China’s western areas, Xi said during the meeting. It will also bring forward upgrading local industries to increase incomes and boost development in southern Xinjiang, he said.
“Understanding the Chinese identity should be incorporated into the education of officials, the younger generation and society in general in Xinjiang,” Xinhua cited Xi as saying.