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China defends crackdown on Muslims amid reports of internment camps

The U.N. accused China last week of detaining ethnic Muslim minorities in internment camps in the country. Chinese officials responded on Monday. (PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

Beijing is defending itself over allegations that China is holding more than 1 million Muslims in internment camps.

What do the reports say?

On Friday, vice-chair of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Gay McDougall, said: "In the name of combating religious extremism and maintaining social stability (China) has changed the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internment camp."

McDougall cited reports that more that 1 million Uighurs are being detained in the region. The Uighurs, an ethnic Muslim minority, make up about 45 percent of China's northeast Xinjiang province.

Nongovernment organizations, such as the Chinese Human Rights Defenders, asked the U.N. committee to press Beijing further about reports of "disappearing individuals to force them to undergo ideological 're-education.'"

The human rights groups claim that another 1.3 million people have been forced to attend "re-education classes."

An article in the Washington Post on Friday contained accounts from individuals who said they had been held in detention centers in China. One source said prisoners were forced to sit for hours singing songs with refrains like "The Communist Party is good. The Communist Party is good."

How did China respond?

The Global Times, a Chinese state-run newspaper, posted an op-ed over the weekend to address the claims. The piece said that Xinjiang "suffered a series of violent terrorist attacks" over the past few years," and insisted that the province "has been salvaged from the verge of mass turmoil."

"It has avoided the fate of becoming 'China's Syria' or 'China's Libya,'" the op-ed said.

The editorial also blamed the Western media for drumming up accusations of human rights violations against the country, and added that "the turnaround in Xinjiang's security situation has avoided a great tragedy and saved countless lives."

Chinese officials addressed the allegations on Monday, with one delegate telling the U.N. panel in Geneva that the "re-education centers" were for "criminals involved only in minor offenses."

But the delegation acknowledged to the U.N. on Monday that while the Uighurs have full rights, "those deceived by religious extremism ... shall be assisted by resettlement and re-education."

One last thing…
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