Beijing: China says heavily guarded internment camps for Muslims which it calls vocational training centers will gradually disappear if there comes a day that society does not need them.
The camps in the far-west Xinjiang region have elicited an international outcry, with former inmates describing harsh conditions where Muslim minorities are subject to political indoctrination and psychological torture.
Human rights groups, researchers and the U.S. government estimate that around 1 million people from the predominantly Muslim Uighur and Kazakh ethnic groups are held in the vast network of compounds. Xinjiang Gov. Shohrat Zakir declined at a news conference on Tuesday to disclose the number of what he called trainees. However, he said the figure is far less than 1 million. Zakir said religious activities are banned in the camps.
As a whole, the number of people in the education centres should be less and less, and if one day society no longer needs it, these education centres can gradually disappear,” he said, without providing the number of people at the facilities.
Former inmates have said they found themselves incarcerated for transgressions such as wearing long beards and face veils or sharing Islamic holiday greetings on social media. Critics allege Uighurs in the camps are being brainwashed in a massive campaign to enforce conformity with Chinese society and the abandonment of Islam. Shohrat also hit out at certain individuals, whom he says sensationalised” the number of people in centres.