Beijing, March 18: China arrested nearly 13,000 terrorists and dismantled over 1,500 terror gangs in the northwestern Xinjiang province since 2014, the government said in a new policy paper on Monday, continuing to defend the controversial security measures implemented in the region.
Beijing faces international criticism for setting up what the UN has called detention camps holding more than a million members from the Uyghur Muslim community in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
China, however, says the sites are actually “vocational training centres” and “campuses” for livelihood training and de-radicalisation of those influenced by extremism.
The new white paper titled “The Fight against Terrorism and Extremism and Human Rights Protection in Xinjiang” is Beijing’s latest effort to defend its, what many say, hardline policies in the remote region.
Released by the State Council Information Office, the paper says: “For some time China’s Xinjiang, under the combined influence of separatists, religious extremists and terrorists, has seen frequent incidents of terrorist attacks, which have been detrimental to the life and property of people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang and have trampled on people’s dignity”.
As a result of its counter-terror efforts, local authorities in XUAR, since 2014, Xinjiang has “destroyed 1,588 violent and terrorist gangs, arrested 12,995 terrorists, seized 2,052 explosive devices, punished 30,645 people for 4,858 illegal religious activities, and confiscated 345,229 copies of illegal religious materials,” it added.
It has adopted a policy that “strikes the right balance between compassion and severity,” the white paper said.
The policy paper added that only a minority of people face strict punishment, such as ringleaders of terror groups, while those influenced by extremist thinking receive education and training to teach them the error of their ways.
“Only by strengthening our community of shared future, abandoning double standards, enhancing political mutual trust, reaching strategic consensus, and promoting exchanges and cooperation, can we effectively curb and combat terrorism and extremism in the interests of world peace and stability,” the white paper said.
The main exiled group, the World Uyghur Congress, swiftly denounced the white paper in a statement quoted by the Reuters news agency.
“China is deliberately distorting the truth. Counter-terrorism is a political excuse to suppress the Uighurs. The real aim of the so-called de-radicalisation is to eliminate faith and thoroughly carry out Sinification,” WUC spokesperson Dilxat Raxit said to the news agency.
The white paper said Xinjiang has faced a particular challenge since the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US, as East Turkestan extremists ramped up activities in China.
“They screamed the evil words of ‘getting into heaven by martyrdom with jihad’, turning some people into extremists and terrorists who have been completely mind-controlled, and even turned into murderous devils.”
A country under the rule of law, China respects and protects human rights in accordance with the principles of its Constitution, the document said.
China’s fight against terrorism and extremism is an important part of the same battle being waged by the international community, the white paper said, adding that it is in keeping with the purposes and principles of the United Nations to combat terrorism and safeguard basic human rights.
“In today’s world, faced with the severe challenges of terrorism and extremism, no country can shy away from them,” it said. (Courtesy: HT)