BEIJING – China said on Monday it has arrested 12,995 terrorists since 2014 in the troubled north-western region of Xinjiang, where human rights organizations say close to a million Muslims are being held in internment camps.
China’s State Council published a white paper titled “The Fight Against Terrorism and Extremism and Human Rights Protection in Xinjiang,” in which it says that 1,588 violent and terrorist gangs have been disbanded and 2,052 explosive devices seized in the region in the last five years, state-run news agency Xinhua reported.
Some 30,645 people have been punished for 4,858 illegal religious activities and 345,229 copies of illegal religious materials confiscated, the document said.
According to the white paper, “incomplete statistics show that from 1990 to the end of 2016, separatist, terrorist and extremist forces launched thousands of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang, killing large numbers of innocent people and hundreds of police officers, and causing immeasurable damage to property.”
In the document, Beijing defended the actions it is taking “in accordance with the law” against “all sorts of violent and terrorist activities that violate human rights, endanger public security, undermine ethnic unity and split the country.”
However, it asserted that the government “fully respects and safeguards civil rights, including freedom of religious belief” and that its actions were aimed at “containing extremism.”
It noted that said that the government won’t allow “crimes such as spreading extremism, inciting ethnic hatred, and dividing the country by means of religion.”
“It is not Islam. These inhuman, anti-social and barbaric acts have brought enormous suffering to all ethnic groups in Xinjiang,” it said.
“For a long time, terrorist and extremist forces have been beating the drum for separatist activities by distorting, fabricating and falsifying the history of Xinjiang, exaggerating the cultural differences between ethnic groups, instigating isolation and hatred, and advocating religious extremism,” it says.
China also accuses the “East Turkistan” forces, both inside and outside the country, of stepping up collaboration since the 1990s to establish “East Turkistan” through “jihad” (holy war).
“It is indisputable that Xinjiang is an inseparable part of Chinese territory. Xinjiang ethnic cultures are an inseparable part of Chinese civilization,” said the white paper, adding that the Uyghurs, the largest ethnic group of the region, came into being in the long process of migration and ethnic integration and “are not descendants of the Turks.”
According to international human rights organizations, close to one million ethnic Uyghurs are being held in Xinjiang in re-education camps, which the government calls vocational training programs aimed at eradicating terrorism and religious extremism.