China has prevented 'great tragedy' in Xinjiang, state-run paper says

China has prevented 'great tragedy' in Xinjiang, state-run paper says

However, a Chinese official hit back at the allegations in an appearance before the committee on Monday, insisting all Xinjiang citizens, including Uighurs, "enjoy equal freedom and rights".

A Chinese official told a United Nations human rights committee in Geneva that tough security measures in China's far-west Xinjiang region were necessary to combat extremism and terrorism, but that they did not target any specific ethnic group or restrict religious freedoms.

The Uighurs, China's Turkic speaking Muslim minority, number approximately 10 million and are primarily based in the Xinjiang where they make up around 45% of the population.

China rejected on Monday allegations raised by a United Nations panel that 1 million Uighurs may be held in internment camps in the restive Xinjiang region, but said that some people underwent re-education after being deceived by extremists.

China is said to carry out the detentions under the guise of combating religious extremism.

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

The latest alleged crackdown follows a spate of largely small scale incidents of violence, including protests and attacks on police officers, which the Chinese authorities have blamed on Muslim Uyghur separatists seeking to establish an independent state.

Muslims face regulations banning beards and veils as well as the distribution of unauthorised Korans.

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The hearing, which wrapped up on August 13, was reportedly attended by a delegation of 50 Chinese officials who refrained from commenting on the matter but pointed to the higher living standards in the region.

Paramilitary policemen stand in formation as they take part in an anti-terrorism oath-taking rally, in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, February 27, 2017.

China has consistently denied discriminating against Uyghurs and Muslims more broadly, pointing to laws which prohibit the oppression of any ethnic groups.

Meanwhile the state-run English-language Global Times newspaper defended tough security measures in the region, which it said had prevented it from turning into "China's Syria" or "China's Libya".

The paper claimed the actions of the Chinese government in Xinjiang had "saved countless lives" and blamed the West for "smearing" their efforts.

Accounts from the region pointed to Muslims "being treated as enemies of the state exclusively on the basis of their ethno-religious identity", Mr. McDougall said, citing reports from activists and scholars that many had disappeared and that even the most commonplace religious practices had become grounds for punishment.

Human Rights Watch claims "tens of thousands" are being held in the political re-education camps, where detainees are made to wear military uniforms and forced to recite patriotic Communist songs.

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