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‘All measures can be tried’ says state-run tabloid after UN expert questions China’s Muslim region crackdown

Chinese state-run tabloid the Global Times said on Monday that “all measures can be tried” to safeguard stability in the Muslim region of Xinjiang. “We must hold onto our belief that keeping turmoil away from Xinjiang is the greatest human right,” it said.

The editorial comes after a United Nations human rights expert said on Friday that there are an estimated two million ethnic minorities held in large-scale “internment camps,” the majority of whom are Muslim Uyghurs.

Xinjiang police in Urumqi

Armed police in Ürümqi, Xinjiang. Photo: Wikicommons.

President Xi Jinping enacted “strike hard” government campaigns to tackle unrest in 2014 following riots among Uyghur groups in 2009 which mostly targeted majority Han people. Since 2016, hardline official Chen Quanguo has overseen an increase in security spending and the development of a network of extrajudicial internment camps where inmates are held without proper trial, often under “terrorism” or “separatism” charges, according to NGO Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

“All of these detainees have had their due process rights violated,” Vice-chair of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Gay McDougall told the committee in Geneva. “Most have never been charged with an offence, tried in a court of law, or afforded an opportunity to challenge the illegality of their detention. Many just disappear.”

Chinese Human Rights Defenders cited government data last month suggesting that one in five arrests in China last year took place in Xinjiang, despite the region containing only 1.5 per cent of the country’s population.

‘No rights zone’

Chinese authorities have reportedly constructed a vast surveillance network of in Xinjiang, estimated to be worth 58 billion yuan (HK$66 billion). The UN panel said that state authorities impose the mandatory collection of biometric data, including DNA samples and iris scans of all residents between the ages of 12 and 65.

“Police and security posts can be seen everywhere in Xinjiang,” the Global Times said. “There is no doubt that the current peace and stability in Xinjiang is partly due to the high intensity of regulations.”

But McDougall said authorities have “turned the Uighur Autonomous Region into something that resembles a massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy – a sort of ‘no rights zone’.”

Kashgar Xinjiang

Kashgar, Xinjiang in 2017. File photo: David Stanley, via Flickr.

In February, Human Rights Watch said that China is violating privacy rights and enabling officials to arbitrarily detain residents: “People in Xinjiang can’t resist or challenge the increasingly intrusive scrutiny of their daily lives because most don’t even know about this ‘black box’ program or how it works,” Maya Wang, senior China researcher, said.

‘Salvaged’ from turmoil

The state-run paper claimed that the Chinese government had “salvaged” Xinjiang from turmoil at the hands of “terrorist organisations”

“It has avoided the fate of becoming ‘China’s Syria’ or “China’s Libya.’,” the editorial – which was published in Chinese and English – said.

The paper added that regional stability had been achieved through the Chinese government’s staunch campaigns to tackle extremism: “The security situation in Xinjiang has been turned around recently and terror threats spreading from there to other provinces of China are also being eliminated. Peaceful and stable life has been witnessed again in all of Xinjiang.” They said that this responsibility has been shouldered by all ethnic groups in the region.

Founded in 1993, the Global Times is a state-run tabloid under the Communist Party’s flagship paper the People’s Daily. The tabloid is known for its hard-line editorials. Some analysts say the paper does not necessarily represent Beijing’s official line.

'All measures can be tried' says state-run tabloid after UN expert questions China's Muslim region crackdown