Chinese leader calls religious internment ‘pioneering’

China’s ruling Communist Party has detained more than a million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minority groups in camps as part of a broad campaign to suppress religious and cultural identity.

“Pioneering.” That’s what China’s Communist Party–appointed governor of Xinjiang province calls Uighur re-education camps. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calls them “abhorrent.”

While the internment has sparked international outcry, the party’s appointed governor of Xinjiang, Shohrat Zakir, has a different opinion.

Zakir recently likened the camps to “pioneering” vocational training centers, even boasting that “graduates” — who may have endured torture — enjoy a 90 percent job placement rate, according to the Associated Press. Zakir also said most detainees have been moved out of the camps to jobs, though detainees’ relatives say they remain missing.

A detainee told the AP that job placements may be forced, years-long contracts to work at factories far from home.

The party official equating religious persecution with vocational training comes as Secretary Pompeo says the camps are a historic abuse of human rights and should be closed.

“We’re working to convince the Chinese that this practice is abhorrent and ought to be stopped,” Pompeo said after his March 26 meeting with survivors who endured beatings and electric shock torture in the Xinjiang camps.

Scholars from 26 countries last fall released a joint statement decrying China’s mass internment of religious minorities. They rejected claims of “vocational training.”

“In the camps, these detainees, most of whom are Uyghur, are subjected to deeply invasive forms of surveillance and psychological stress as they are forced to abandon their native language, religious beliefs and cultural practices,” the scholars write.


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