China defended the camps, saying they were for re-education and aimed at de-radicalising some sections of the Uygur Muslim population.
China Monday said it would welcome the UN officials to visit its volatile Muslim-majority Xinjiang province provided they remain “fair and objective”, days after the official media reported that Beijing passed a five-year plan to “sinicise Islam” to make it compatible with its version of socialism. UN’s Geneva-based Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said last year that it was alarmed by “numerous reports of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities” being detained in camps Xinjiang region and called for their immediate release. China defended the camps, saying they were for re-education and aimed at de-radicalising some sections of the Uygur Muslim population.
The US and several other countries have also expressed concern over the camps. UN human rights official Michelle Bachelet said in December that her office had sought access from China to visit Xinjiang to verify the re-education camps for Muslim minorities. “Xinjiang is an open region. We welcome UN and other parties to visit Xinjiang while abiding by relevant rules, regulations and necessary procedures,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a media briefing here.
“We also believe that they should avoid interfering in internal affairs and harming our sovereignty. They should stay objective and fair. We are willing to maintain contact with UN to meet each other half way,” he said. China has about 20 million Muslims who are mostly Uyghurs, an ethnic group of Turkic origin and Hui Muslims who are of Chinese ethnic origin.
Both Uyghurs and Hui Muslims are about 10 million each, according to an official paper. While Uyghurs lived in Xinjiang bordering Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), Hui Muslims resided in Ningxia province. China is currently carrying out a massive crackdown against the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in the volatile Xinjiang province where Uyghurs who form a majority there express concern over the increasing settlements of the Han community.
Meanwhile, official media reported that China passed a five-year plan to ‘sinicise Islam’ in a bid to make it compatible with its version of socialism. “China passed a five-year plan to sinicise Islam at a meeting on Saturday with representatives from China’s eight Islamic associations,” an article in the state-run Global Times said on Sunday. “During the meeting, the participants agreed to guide Islam to be compatible with socialism and implement measures to sinicise the religion. This is China’s important act to explore ways of governing religion in modern countries,” it said. Asked about his reaction, Lu said “I have not heard about what you said”.
“China is a country of various ethnic groups. We respect the religious activities. But I believe that the religious activities should be carried out within the framework of the law in a country. There is no exception even in other countries like the UK and so on,” he said. The ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) has been following much highlighted “Socialism with Chinese characteristics”, an ideological enunciated by former leader Deng Xiaoping, who succeeded Mao Zedong after his death in 1976. Under this line, China followed reforming and opening policies, liberalising the economy to allow private sector.