The Global Times, a Chinese government propaganda newspaper, declared on Monday that “all” the victims of China’s Muslim concentration camps had “graduated” from the camps’ “vocational programs,” furthering Beijing’s claim that the concentration camps exist to help Muslims get better jobs.
The Pentagon estimated in May that as many as 3 million people were trapped in over a thousand concentration camps in Xinjiang, China’s westernmost province and home to the majority of the nation’s ethnic Uyghur minority. While Uyghurs are believed to make up the majority of the camps’ population, ethnic Kazakh and Kyrgyz Muslims have also found themselves trapped in the camps. Only a small trickle of survivors have escaped the camps and lived to testify to the reality within, which they say features a wide variety of human rights atrocities including rape, live organ harvesting, and slavery. China has defamed the survivors as criminals and deviants.
In addition to survivors’ testimonies, journalists around the world have published leaked official documents that corroborate their claims of atrocities committing in the name of systematic dehumanization, written by Chinese government officials who did not intend the contents of their documents to be made public.
Despite the overwhelming evidence, China has for months insisted that the camps provide an invaluable “vocational” service, offering impoverished Uyghurs key job skills to keep them in the market and minimize the discontent that fuels jihadist recruitment. Xinjiang is home to a separatist movement known as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which used violence to advocate for an Uyghur state separate from Beijing.
China regularly boasts that stuffing millions of people into concentration camps has prevented ETIM from engaging in violence against the state.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, the UIGHUR Act, designed to condemn China for its human rights atrocities in Xinjiang, last week nearly unanimously, triggering a barrage of Chinese condemnation and propaganda about the effectiveness of the camps.
“Xinjiang’s training centers now offer regular vocational training to officials, farmers & herdsmen and the public who are willing to gain certain skills,” Shohrat Zakir, chairman of Xinjiang regional government, reportedly said on Monday, celebrating the “graduations.”
“Those graduates, with the help of the government, have found stable employment, improved their living standard and started leading a happy life, the chairman said,” according to the Global Times, which called the camps a “useful exploration for China in the battle against terrorism and extremism.”
The newspaper did not produce proof of the chairman’s claim or interview any of the “graduates.” Instead, it turned to attacking Washington for promoting a bill that would defend the human rights of Uyghurs and others caught in the repressive camp system.
Zakir reportedly accused America of trying to “undermine stability and development” by condemning the use of concentration camps in the 21st century.
The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, similarly proclaimed on Monday that the United States was actively trying to hinder anti-terrorist efforts in Xinjiang, not hold an authoritarian state accountable for crimes against humanity.
“Today, the freedom of religious belief in Xinjiang cannot be matched by that in any other historical period, as all ethnic groups in the region are united and work together, share the benefits of reform and development, and have their rights guaranteed by law,” the People’s Daily alleged, offering no evidence. “Chinese government’s Xinjiang policies are totally designed for the protection of human rights. In the past three years, no violent or terrorist attack has happened in the region.”
The newspaper called the UIGHUR Act “disgusting and sinister” as well as “ridiculous,” accusing American politicians of inciting terrorist activity in China.
“The U.S. had better stop its dirty tricks of interfering in China’s internal affairs and the farce that will ultimately humiliate itself, as anyone who underestimates the determination and willpower of the Chinese people will not end well,” the newspaper threatened.
The attacks form part of a more sophisticated propaganda effort against U.S. condemnation of China’s human rights abuses that launched last week with multiple documentaries alleging peace and harmony in Xinjiang and condemning ETIM as a major threat to stability in the region. In remarks Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying promoted the documentaries and hounded journalists at her regular press conference after they admitted to not having watched them.
“You are very interested in Xinjiang-related issues. When those ill-intentioned spread lies about Xinjiang, you flock to hear them. But when the facts and truth are readily available at hand, you sidestep it. Why is that?” Hua asked. “What are you worried about? What are you afraid of? Don’t you feel like getting down to thinking about the underlying problems?”
In the same press briefing, Hua refused to answer a question on the number of people China has trapped in concentration camps.
“As you just said, they are dynamic, with people coming and leaving. So no precise number can be provided,” she demurred.