Published: Fri, March 15, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

China: Muslim 'Training Centers' May 'Gradually Disappear' Some Day

China: Muslim 'Training Centers' May 'Gradually Disappear' Some Day

The US envoy, who was attending a forum on religious freedom in the Indo-Pacific region in Taipei, had met Lee Ming-che's wife, Lee Ching-yu, when she visited the US to mobilize worldwide support for her husband's release.

Describing China's internment of an estimated one million Muslims as a "horrific situation", a USA envoy on religion called Tuesday for an independent investigation into the detentions and for the release of those being held.

Sam Brownback urged China in a Friday speech in Hong Kong to allow investigations of its detainment camps, in which former Uighur Muslim detainees said they experienced inhumane conditions, torture and brainwashing, and also said the Chinese government must correct the wrongs it has committed against religious freedom in general. Brownback suggested the USA may respond with sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

In a statement issued by the Commissioner's Office of China's Foreign Ministry in the Hong Kong SAR on Monday, the office stressed that the Chinese Constitution and laws protected its citizens' freedom of religious belief.

Dismissing global criticism about the camps and targeting of the Muslim Uyghur community, Zakir said the camps would gradually disappear when they are no longer needed.

"We fully ensure freedom of religion", including accommodating Muslim "trainees'" desire for halal food, Mr. Zakir said, adding that they can request time off and go home on weekends, "like many boarding schools". Veterans of the camps have reported physical abuse, efforts to "deprogram" the religious beliefs of internees, and forced violation of dietary laws.

"Our education and training centres have been set up according to our needs. The students that come in to learn, it's a dynamic number that changes", Zakir insisted. "The number of people in the education centers should be less and less, and if one day society no longer needs [them], these education centers can gradually disappear", Zakir said.

According to Reuters, the U.S. government has weighed sanctions against senior Chinese officials in Xinjiang, including on the Communist Party of China (CPC) boss, Chen Quanguo, who as a member of the powerful politburo is in the upper echelons of China's leadership. Chen was at the same meeting as Zakir on Tuesday but did not answer questions about the camps.

He had disappeared after entering China from Macao on a private visit and his whereabouts had remained unknown until May when Chinese authorities said they had detained him on suspicions of subversion of state power. The United Nations is now attempting to send observers to the camps. Isa said the camps are "clearly an attempt to totally assimilate and control the Uighurs and other Turkic peoples in the region".

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