(Reuters) – The world should ignore “gossip” about China’s Xinjiang region and trust authorities there, the government’s top diplomat said on Tuesday, when asked if Beijing would allow international observers to inspect camps holding Muslims there.
Western countries including Canada, France, Germany, and the United States have urged China to shut down camps in Xinjiang, where activists say as many as 1 million members of the Uighur minority and other Muslims are being detained.
Far western Xinjiang faces a threat from Islamist militants and separatists, China has said in the past. It rejects all accusations of mistreatment and denies mass internment.
After initial blanket denials, however, Chinese officials have said some people guilty of minor offences were being sent to “vocational” training centers, where they are taught work skills and legal knowledge aimed at curbing militancy.
After meeting Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, State Councillor Wang Yi said he hoped people would understand and support the Xinjiang regional government’s efforts to fight terrorism, end the spread of extremism and ensure social stability.
“(People) should not listen to gossip or rumor, because the Xinjiang regional government, of course, understands the situation in Xinjiang best, and not some other people or organizations,” said Wang, who is also foreign minister.
“The efforts are completely in line with the direction the international community has taken to combat terrorism, and are an important part of the global fight against terrorism,” he told reporters.
“If we can take care of prevention, then it will be impossible for terrorism to spread and take root.”
Wang’s remarks followed Monday’s comments by Maas that there was a need for more information on the Xinjiang situation and that China needed to be transparent.
“In any case, we cannot accept re-education camps. We need transparency in order to properly judge what is happening there,” Maas said in Beijing.
Reports of mass detentions and strict surveillance of Uighurs and other Muslims have prompted the United States to consider sanctions against officials and companies linked to suspected human rights abuses.
Researchers have said spending on security-related construction in Xinjiang tripled in 2017, and that despite the “vocational training” campaign, Xinjiang government data shows employment has not markedly improved.
(Reporting by Michael Martina; Additional reporting by Noah Barkin in BERLIN; Editing by Robert Birsel and Clarence Fernandez)