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China says Uighur Muslims have 'graduated' from camps

By
Elizabeth Shim
Shohrat Zakir (R), chairman of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, said Monday all detainees have been released. File Photo by Roman Pilipey/EPA-EFE
Shohrat Zakir (R), chairman of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, said Monday all detainees have been released. File Photo by Roman Pilipey/EPA-EFE

Dec. 9 (UPI) -- China claimed ethnic Uighurs once held in detention centers in the western region of Xinjiang have all been released, while criticizing the United States for "attacks and smears."

Xinjiang's regional government chairman Shohrat Zakir told reporters on Monday detainees have all been released or "graduated," the Global Times and other state media reported.

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Xinjiang is home to 11 million Uighur Muslims. The region was the target of a state-led crackdown starting in 2017, when Beijing began to detain up to a million Uighurs in mass concentration camps.

Zakir's press conference on Monday comes after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill last week pushing back on the "arbitrary detention, torture and harassment" of the Uighurs.

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Zakir said the United States has not helped with China's stand against "terrorism."

"When the lives of people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang were seriously threatened by terrorism, the United States turned a deaf ear," he said, according to the BBC.

"Now that Xinjiang society is steadily developing and people of all ethnicities are living and working in peace, the United States feels uneasy, and attacks and smears Xinjiang."

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Zakir said Monday detainees who "graduated" learned Chinese language in the camps, trained to resist religious extremism and learned the law.

"With support from the government, they will be able to find stable jobs, improve their living standards and live happily," the official said.

During the briefing, Zakir said Xinjiang has benefited from state economic policies. Since the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012, Xinjiang has experienced economic growth of about 8.5 percent annually. The poverty rate has declined by more than 22 percent, the official claimed.

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Zakir added there have been no incidents of "terrorism" in Xinjiang in the last three years, and that the "training centers" will accept fewer people.

"A day will come when society no longer needs them," he said.

Former detainees have called the camps "hell" and claimed authorities attempted to brainwash subjects.

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