China says 13000 'terrorists' arrested in Xinjiang since 2014

Ethnic Uighur demonstrators hold East Turkestan and Turkish flags during a demonstration against China in Istanbul Turkey Feb 23 2019. Reuters

Chinese authorities said they arrested almost 13,000 "terrorists" and punished more than 30,000 for "illegal religious activities" in the Xinjiang region since 2014.

"If the Chinese government is so certain that it has nothing to hide in Xinjiang, then it should allow independent global observers such as the United Nations into the region", Wang said.

According to human rights groups, close to one million ethnic Uyghurs are being held in Xinjiang re-education camps, which the government calls vocational training programmes aimed at eradicating terrorism and religious extremism.

The report is "part of the Chinese government's efforts to diffuse the worldwide community's growing criticisms of its abusive policies in Xinjiang", said Maya Wang, a senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch based in Hong Kong. Over that time, 2 052 explosive devices were seized and more than 30 000 people punished for taking part in nearly 5 000 "illegal religious activities", the report said.

Only a small minority of people face strict punishment, such as ringleaders of terrorist groups, while those influenced by extremist thinking receive education and training to teach them the error of their ways, the paper said.

The decision was taken during a meeting with representatives from China's eight Islamic associations.

It also gave a breakdown of 30 attacks since 1990, with the last one recorded in December 2016, saying 458 people had died and at least 2,540 were wounded as a effect of attacks and other unrest.

Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, an overseas Uighur advocacy group, said China was using the spectre of terrorism in an attempt to undermine sympathy for the Uighur cause.

"China pursues preventive counter terrorism measures".

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China has made significant progress in its counterterrorism and de-radicalisation efforts in Xinjiang, it said.

The white paper said Xinjiang has faced a particular challenge since the September 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S., as East Turkestan extremists ramped up activities in China.

The white paper also noted that religious extremism under the banner of Islam runs counter to Islamic doctrines.

Xinjiang, a multi-ethnic region since ancient times, constitutes an integral part of the Chinese nation, said the white paper.

"They are not descendants of the Turks".

Workers walk by the perimeter fence of what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre in Dabancheng in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China September 4, 2018.

China has denounced Turkish concern as unwarranted and interference in its internal affairs.

However, terrorist and extremist forces have been beating the drum for separatist activities for a long time by distorting, fabricating and falsifying the history of Xinjiang, exaggerating the cultural differences between ethnic groups, instigating isolation and hatred, and advocating religious extremism, it said.

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