China Xinjiang authorities okay Uighur re-education camps in new law

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"People's governments at the county level and above may establish education and transformation organizations and management departments such as vocational training centers to educate and transform people who have been influenced by extremism", reads one of the new clauses. Human rights groups have repeatedly criticised these camps, which former detainees have said make use of torture and indoctrination techniques to undermine the Uyghur religious and cultural identity.

In August, the United Nations questioned China over crackdowns on Uighurs - an ethnic minority who are mostly Muslims.

Chinese authorities deny that the internment camps exist but say petty criminals are sent to vocational "training centers".

In addition, they teach law, "are engaged in ideological education, to help bring order to thoughts, correct behavior, to learn the state language".

The congressional commission - a bipartisan group created by Congress to monitor developments in human rights and other issues in China - used this year's report to highlight the persecution of Chinese Uighurs, a Muslim minority in China's western Xinjiang region.

It bans a wide range of acts deemed manifestations of extremism, including wearing veils or "abnormal" beards, refusing to watch state television or listen to state radio, and preventing children from receiving national education.

Xinjiang street Chinese flag
Chinese national flags are hung prominently in a passage in Kashgar Xinjiang. AP

The other 4.5 million Catholics comprise what is often referred to as the "underground" Catholic Church in China, who are dubious of party-sanctioned and elected bishops and their teachings "because they believe legitimate ecclesiastical authority can be conferred only by the Pope's mandate, and they also object to affiliation with the patriotic religious association for Chinese Catholics, the Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA)".

The camps are part of a broader attack on Islamic extremism in Xinjiang.

The announcement comes as Communist Party leaders in Urumqi, the regional capital, on Monday led cadres in swearing an oath to fight the "pan-halal trend".

Allowing more foods to be labeled halal could promote the spread of Islamic practice and ultimately lead to the "mire of religious extremism", the state-run Global Times newspaper said in an article about the campaign.

Chinese authorities are undertaking "unprecedented" repression of ethnic minorities including Muslim Uighurs as authoritarian government tactics cause human rights conditions to deteriorate across the country, a damning U.S. congressional report released Wednesday concluded. "Coercive controls imposed on Chinese women and their families, and additional abuses engendered by China's population and family-planning system, violate standards set forth in the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the 1994 Program of Action of the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development", the report added.

In recent decades, large numbers of Han Chinese (China's ethnic majority) have migrated to Xinjiang, and the Uighurs feel their culture and livelihoods are under threat.

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