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China dismisses reports about its indoctrination camps as 'gossip

An ethnic Uighur man adjusts his traditional hat as he talks with others at a teahouse on July 1, 2017, in the old town of Kashiar, in the far western Xinjiang province, China. Kashgar has long been considered the cultural heart of Xinjiang for the province's nearly 10 million Muslim Uighurs. China has been accused of rounding up Uighurs and sending them to indoctrination camps. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

China has dismissed international outcry over its treatment of its ethnic Uighur minority, saying that other nations should trust the Chinese government and not listen to “gossip or rumor.”

What's happening with the Uighurs?

China has restricted the Uighur's religious freedom and prevented them from studying its  own language.

In August, a United Nations human rights panel announced that it had “many numerous and credible reports” that 1 million Uighurs were being held in what appeared to be a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy.”

The Chinese government has denied that this camp existed. In October, the top Chinese official in the Xinjiang region said that the Uighur's were being sent to  “vocational education” centers to prevent terrorism. He said that the Uighur at these centers were “trainees.”

But, Reuters noted, despite the increase in these “vocational training” camps, there has not been an increase in employment.

But the Chinese government's view of what constitutes terrorism seems to be extremely broad. In September, an Uighur was reportedly detained for setting his watch to the pre-Mao time zone for his western Chinese province, instead of the one unified Chinese time zone mandated by the government. This, according to witnesses who spoke to Human Rights Watch, made him a terror suspect.

During a meeting with defense ministers in Washington, D.C., in October, outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley condemned China's treatment of the Uighurs as being “the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities."

"Their brutal tactics are self-fulfilling. They're busy creating the very radicalism they claim to be tamping down,” Haley said.

What did China say now?

Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters, according to a translation provided by Reuters, “[People] should not listen to gossip or rumour, because the Xinjiang regional government, of course, understands the situation in Xinjiang best, and not some other people or organisations.”

He added, “The efforts are completely in line with the direction the international community has taken to combat terrorism, and are an important part of the global fight against terrorism.”

Wang insisted that China was only trying to prevent terrorism, saying “[i]f we can take care of prevention, then it will be impossible for terrorism to spread and take root.”

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