China defends Xinjiang centers for Muslims, but aims to ‘downsize’

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FHILE PHOTO: China Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Yucheng attends the Universal Periodic Review of China by the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

GENEVA, March 15: Chinese vice foreign minister Le Yucheng on Friday defended what China calls its vocational training centers in Xinjiang for Muslims and rejected interference in domestic affairs.

China has faced growing international opprobrium for the centers that rights groups describe as internment camps. Beijing has said the measures are needed to stem the threat of Islamist militancy.

Le, speaking to the U.N. Human Rights Council at the conclusion of a review of its record held every five years, said: “As the counter-terrorism situation improves, the training program will be gradually downsized, leading to its completion.”

“Without our decisive measures, violent terrorist attacks would have escalated in Xinjiang and spread to other parts of China and the world,” Le told the Geneva forum.

Xinjiang is a vast region bordering central Asia that is home to millions of ethnic minority Muslims.

Adrian Zenz, a leading independent researcher on China’s ethnic policies said on Wednesday that an estimated 1.5 million Uighurs and other Muslims could be held in the centers in Xinjiang, up from his earlier figure of 1 million.

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