China newspaper defends Xinjiang Muslim crackdown

China’s campaign of pressure against the country’s Uighur Muslim minority has prevented the far-northwestern region of Xinjiang from “becoming ‘China’s Syria’ or ‘China’s Libya,'” an official Communist Party newspaper said Monday.

The Global Times editorial came after a U.N. anti-discrimination committee raised concerns Friday over China’s treatment of Uighurs, citing reports of mass detentions that is said “resembles a massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy.”

Following attacks by radical Muslim separatists, hundreds of thousands of members of the Uighur and Kazakh Muslim minorities in Xinjiang have been arbitrarily detained in indoctrination camps where they are forced to denounce Islam and profess loyalty to the party.

Global Times said the intense regulations in the region were merely “a phase that Xinjiang has to go through in rebuilding peace and prosperity.”

The editorial did not directly mention the existence of the internment camps.

Denouncing what it called “destructive Western public opinions,” the paper said, “peace and stability must come above all else.”

“Through the strong leadership of the Communist Party of China, the national strength of the country and the contribution of local officials, Xinjiang has been salvaged from the verge of massive turmoil,” the paper said. “It has avoided the fate of becoming ‘China’s Syria’ or ‘China’s Libya.'”

Xinjiang has been enveloped in a suffocating blanket of security for years, especially since a deadly anti-government riot broke out in the regional capital of Urumqi in 2009. Over recent months, monitoring groups and eyewitnesses say Uighurs have been summoned from abroad and across China and sent into detention and indoctrination centers.

The roughly 10 million Uighurs make up a tiny proportion of China’s almost 1.4 billion people and there has never been an insurgency that could challenge the central government’s overwhelming might.

When the U.N.’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination started reviewing China’s report in Geneva on Friday, Chinese delegation leader Yu Jianhua highlighted economic progress and rising living standards among other things.

Committee vice-chairwoman Gay McDougall said members are “deeply concerned” by “numerous and credible reports that we have received that, in the name of combating religious extremism and maintaining social stability, (China) has turned the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy.”

McDougall said there were estimates that more than a million people “are being held in so-called counter-extremism centers and another 2 million have been forced into so-called re-education camps for political and cultural indoctrination.”

She did not specify a source for that information in her remarks at the hearing.

The Geneva-based committee continues its hearing Monday, with conclusions expected later. Yu, China’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, said China will respond to the main questions raised in Friday’s session on Monday.