Wednesday 20 November 2019

Chinese region ‘legalises’ Muslim internment camps

Authorities deny that the camps exist but say petty criminals are sent to vocational ‘training centres’.

FILE – In this Nov. 4, 2017 file photo, Uighur security personnel patrol near the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar in western China’s Xinjiang region. China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang has revised legislation to allow the detention of suspected extremists in “education and training centers.” The revisions come amid rising international concern over a harsh crackdown in Xinjiang that has led to as many as 1 million of China’s Uighurs and other Muslim minorities being held in internment camps. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)
FILE – In this Nov. 4, 2017 file photo, Uighur security personnel patrol near the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar in western China’s Xinjiang region. China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang has revised legislation to allow the detention of suspected extremists in “education and training centers.” The revisions come amid rising international concern over a harsh crackdown in Xinjiang that has led to as many as 1 million of China’s Uighurs and other Muslim minorities being held in internment camps. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

By Dake Kang, Associated Press

Chinese authorities have changed the law to provide a legal basis for internment camps in the western region of Xinjiang where up to one million Muslims are being held.

New clauses adopted by the regional government officially permit the use of “education and training centres” to reform “people influenced by extremism”.

Chinese authorities deny that internment camps exist but say petty criminals are sent to vocational “training centres”.

It's a new form of re-education that's unprecedented and doesn't really have a legal basis, and I see them scrambling to try to create a legal basis for this policy. James Leibold

Former detainees say they were forced to denounce Islam and profess loyalty to the Communist Party in what they describe as political indoctrination camps.

“It’s a retrospective justification for the mass detainment of Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang,” said James Leibold, a scholar of Chinese ethnic policies at Melbourne’s La Trobe University.

“It’s a new form of re-education that’s unprecedented and doesn’t really have a legal basis, and I see them scrambling to try to create a legal basis for this policy.”

The revisions say government agencies at the county level and above “may establish occupational skills education and training centres, education transformation organisations and management departments to transform people influenced by extremism through education”.

A new clause directs the centres to teach the Mandarin language and provide occupational and legal education, as well as “ideological education, psychological rehabilitation and behaviour correction”.

The original legislation announced in 2017 banned the wearing of veils, “extreme speech and behaviour” and the refusal to listen to public radio and television broadcasts.

Beijing has spent decades trying to suppress pro-independence sentiment in Xinjiang fuelled in part by frustration about an influx of migrants from China’s Han majority. Authorities say extremists have ties to foreign terror groups but have given little evidence to support that.

Members of Uighur, Kazakh and other Muslim minorities who live abroad say they have not been able to contact relatives in China, while authorities are placing children separated from their detained or exiled parents into dozens of state-run orphanages across Xinjiang.

Mr Leibold believes that the revisions are an attempt to deflect international criticism.

China has come under increasing pressure from the US and the European Union after a United Nations panel confronted Chinese diplomats in August over reports of arbitrary mass detentions and harsh security measures aimed at Muslims. China is up for review by the UN’s Human Rights Council in November.

“Regardless of these revisions, I still believe the practice of coercively detaining Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang in ‘education through transformation centres’ not only violates Chinese law but also international legal norms against the extrajudicial deprivation of liberty,” Mr Leibold said.

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