China's Xinjiang region legalizes Muslim internment camps

China's Xinjiang region legalizes Muslim internment camps

In the wake of reports that up to 1 million Uighurs and other Muslims are being detained in secretive "re-education camps" in the far-western region of Xinjiang, China has made some significant additions to its anti-extremism regulations, apparently aimed at giving the camps a basis under the law.

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

The revisions, published on Tuesday, 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".

In 2017, China banned activity deemed "extremist" was banned, including wearing a headscarf, having "abnormal" beards, refusing to follow state media, or preventing children from receiving state education.

Reports of mass detentions and strict surveillance of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims have sparked a growing worldwide outcry, prompting the United States to consider sanctions against officials and companies linked to allegations of human rights abuses.

Beijing denies that the centers serve as internment camps but has admitted that even petty criminals have been sent to such centers.

The new regulations in Xinjiang effectively provide a legal basis for those centres.

China launched its "Strike Hard" campaign targeting separatism in Xinjiang in 2014 following deadly violence in the region. Unrest between Uighurs and members of the ethnic Han Chinese majority has seen hundreds killed in recent years.

The state-run Global Times tabloid on Wednesday cited "experts" as saying that the "pan-halal" tendency blurs the boundary between religion and secular life, making it easy to "fall into the mire of religious extremism".

The official Global Times said on Wednesday that the "demand that things be halal which can not really be halal" was fuelling hostility toward religion and allowing Islam to penetrate secular life.

The Urumqi Communist Party leaders also said they would require government officials and party members to firmly believe in Marxism-Leninism, and not religion, and to speak standard Mandarin Chinese in public.

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