China says 13,000 Xinjiang ‘terrorists’ arrested since 2014

BEIJING (AP) – China has arrested nearly 13,000 people it describes as terrorists and has broken up hundreds of “terrorist gangs” in Xinjiang since 2014, the government said in a report on Monday issued to counter criticism of internment camps and other oppressive security in the traditionally Islamic region.

The lengthy report said the government’s efforts have curbed religious extremism but gave little evidence of what crimes had occurred. The far northwestern region is closed to outsiders, but former residents and activists abroad say mere expressions of Muslim identity are punished.

Criticism has grown over China’s Internment of an estimated 1 million Uighurs and members of other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups. China describes the camps as vocational training centres and says participation is voluntary. Former detainees say they were held in abusive conditions, forced to renounce Islam and swear allegiance to China’s ruling Communist Party.

The camps sprang up over the past two years at extraordinary speed and on a massive scale, as monitored by satellite imagery. China maintains a massive security presence in Xinjiang and efforts to independently verify claims by Uighur activists are routinely blocked.

Residents watch a convoy of security personnel and armoured vehicles in a show of force through central Kashgar in western China’s Xinjiang region. – AP