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China Claims All People in Xinjiang Camps Have 'Graduated'

Shohrat Zakir, chairman of China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region speaks during a press conference in Beijing Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Shohrat Zakir, chairman of China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region speaks during a press conference in Beijing Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
China Claims All People in Xinjiang Camps Have Graduated
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A Chinese official says all people who were in “job training centers” across far western Xinjiang have “graduated” and are living happy lives. But Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities from the area say their family members continue to be detained in camps and prisons.

Xinjiang’s governor, Shohrat Zakir, made the statement on Monday. His comments came during a press event that is part of a new propaganda campaign. The campaign began after U.S. lawmakers approved the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act last week.

Zakir said Monday, “When the lives of people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang were seriously threatened by terrorism, the U.S. turned a deaf ear.”

“Now,” he added, “people of all ethnicities are living and working in peace, the U.S. feels uneasy, and attacks and smears Xinjiang.”

The Uyghur bill condemns the mass detention of more than 1 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and others. It also urges the U.S. to order restrictions on Chinese officials considered responsible for the mass detentions.

Former detainees and their family members have told reporters that the so-called job training centers are more like prisons. Inside, detainees are tortured and forced to renounce their religion and express thanks to the ruling Communist Party.

Chinese officials have described the detentions as a form of job training. But documents recently leaked to several news organizations describe a complex plan that involves arresting ethnic minorities even if they had not carried out any crimes.

Xu Hairong is the Communist Party chief of Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital. He did not argue about the truthfulness of the released documents. However, he said that there was no such thing as “detention camps.”

Officials have not said how many people are in the centers. But they argue the estimated number of over 1 million is too high.

Zakir, Xinjiang’s governor, said Monday that all people in the training centers who studied Mandarin Chinese, law, job skills and deradicalization have “graduated” and found employment. He added that others -- such as village officials, farmers and unemployed people -- continue to attend training programs that permit them to “come and go freely.”

Some former detainees have told Associated Press reporters that they were forced to sign job agreements in factories and were barred from leaving the factories during the week. They said they worked long hours for low pay. Many Uyghurs living outside of China also say their family members are in prison -- not camps -- after being sentenced on unclear charges of extremism.

Monday’s press event was the latest in several public responses from the Chinese government following the approval of the Uyghur human rights bill by the U.S. House of Representatives. Similar legislation had already passed the Senate.

China has called the Uyghur bill a violation of international law and an interference in China’s internal issues.

I’m Susan Shand.

The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

graduate v. to officially complete education training

turn a deaf ear - expression refuse to listen to

smear – v. an untrue story about a person that is meant to hurt that person's reputation

renounce – v. to say in a formal or definite way that you refuse to follow, obey, or support (someone or something) any longer

deradicalization – n. the process of changing a person from one with extreme ideas to one with common ideas

response - n. something that is said or written as a reply to something

internal – adj. on the inside