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China legalises ‘re-education camps’ for ‘religious extremists’ in Xinjiang

China launches anti-halal campaign in Xinjiang China’s Urumqi Takes Aim at ‘Extremist’ Religious Practices
Deanna Wagner | 11 October, 2018, 09:23

More than one million Muslims are reportedly being held in the Xinjiang region in the west of the country in internment camps.

A new law allows for "vocational skill education training centres" to "carry out anti-extremist ideological education" and implement "psychological and behavioural correction to promote thought transformation of trainees, and help them return to society and family". Human rights groups have long alleged mistreatment and abuse of Uighurs in Xinjiang, with the United Nations estimating China had detained as many as 1 million Uighurs. On Tuesday, a newly revised edition was released with passages referring for the first time to "vocational training centers", casting them as part of the government's efforts to counter extremism.

The region's anti-extremism laws have been in force since April previous year, and also ban Muslim men and women from growing "abnormal" beards or wearing veils in public.

Chinese officials have denied the existence of arbitrary detention and enforced political re-education, instead saying that some citizens were sent to vocational centres for minor criminal misdemeanours.

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The new regulations in Xinjiang effectively provide a legal basis for those centres. China has come under increasing pressure from the U.S. and the European Union after a United Nations panel confronted Chinese diplomats in August over reports of arbitrary mass detentions and harsh security measures aimed at Muslims.

"It's a retrospective justification for the mass detainment of Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang", said James Leibold, a scholar of Chinese ethnic policies at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

Members of Uighur, Kazakh and other Muslim minorities who live overseas say they have not been able to contact relatives in China, while authorities are placing children separated from their detained or exiled parents into dozens of state-run orphanages across Xinjiang.

The official Global Times said that the "demand that things be halal which can not really be halal" was fuelling hostility towards religion, and allowing Islam to penetrate secular life.