China’s assertion that it has released 90 percent of the million-plus Uyghurs held in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) internment camps was refuted by police in the region and by members of the Uyghur community living in exile who launched a twitter campaign challenging the claim.
China presented the two top ethnic Uyghur officials in the XUAR at a news conference in Beijing on Tuesday to deliver a surprising claim that the vast majority of Uyghurs had completed training in re-education camps and rejoined their families.
“The majority of people who have undergone education and training have returned to society and returned to their families,” Erkin Tuniyaz, the vice chairman of the XUAR government, told the news conference.
“Most have already successfully achieved employment,” he said. “Over 90 percent of the students have returned to society and returned to their families and are living happily,” said Tuniyaz, who was flanked by Shohrat Zakir, the XUAR government chairman.
The two Uyghur men work under XUAR Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, the architect of the system that has incarcerated up to 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas since April 2017.
The claims, which were presented without evidence, were met with dismissal and derision by leading human rights experts and Uyghur diaspora groups, who described the statements as the latest in a long history of Chinese disinformation about Xinjiang. One expert warned that released detainees could be drafted for forced labor in factories.
“China is making deceptive and unverifiable statements in a vain attempt to allay worldwide concern for the mass detentions of Uyghurs and members of other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s regional director for East and South-East Asia.
“Given China’s record of heavy censorship, outright falsehoods and systematic obfuscation about the situation in Xinjiang, it remains imperative that UN human rights investigators, independent observers and the media be given unrestricted access to the region as a matter of urgency,” he added.
The Germany-based World Uyghur Congress while slamming the Chinese claim noted that Zakir’s own sister and several other relatives have received political asylum in Western countries after fleeing Chinese repression.