China says Xinjiang is its ‘inseparable’ part

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Beijing, Jul 21: Battling a wave of international criticism over alleged mass detention of ethnic Uighur Muslims in internment camps in Xinjiang, China on Sunday issued a white paper, asserting that the volatile province is an “inseparable” part of the Chinese territory and has never been “East Turkistan” as claimed by separatists.

China is facing severe criticism from western countries over reports that it is holding one million people, mostly ethnic Uighurs, in internment camps in Xinjiang bordering India, Afghanistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and several Central Asian States in a bid to control violent attacks by separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) organisation.

China blames ETIM, stated to be an affiliate of Al-Qaeda, for numerous violent attacks in the restive Xinjiang region and various other parts of the country including Beijing. Resource-rich Xinjiang province is the home of over 10 million Turkik speaking Uighur Muslims.

China, however defends the camps, describing the facilities as re-education centres aimed at de-radicalising sections of the Uighur Muslim population from extremism and separatism.

China Sunday released a white paper, asserting that never in Chinese history has northwest Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region been referred to as “East Turkistan,” and there has never been any state known as “East Turkistan.”

The white paper said that China is a unified multi-ethnic country, and the various ethnic groups in Xinjiang have long been part of the Chinese nation. Throughout its long history, Xinjiang’s development has been closely related to that of China, it said.

“However, in more recent times, hostile forces in and outside China, especially separatists, religious extremists and terrorists, have tried to split China and break it apart by distorting history and facts,” the document said.

“The Turks were nomads who originated in the Altai Mountains in the middle of the 6th century. They mixed with local tribes during their migration to Central and West Asia, but these newly-formed peoples were fundamentally different from the ancient Turks. Ever since then, Turks have disappeared from China’s northern regions,” it said.

“Xinjiang has long been an inseparable part of Chinese territory. Never has it been the so-called ‘East Turkistan’. The Uighur ethnic group came into being through a long process of migration and integration,” it said, adding that it is part of the Chinese nation.

“In Xinjiang, different cultures and religions coexist, and ethnic cultures have been fostered and developed in the embrace of the Chinese civilisation. Islam is neither an indigenous nor the sole belief system of the Uighur people. It has taken root in the Chinese culture and developed soundly in China,” the paper said.

At a session of the UN Human Rights Council early this month, UN ambassadors from 22 countries – including Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany and Japan have written a letter to top UN human rights officials condemning China’s treatment of Uighur and other minorities in the western Xinjiang region.

The letter to Human Rights Council President Coly Seck, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet called on China to stop “arbitrary detention” and allow freedom of movement of Uighurs and other Muslim and minority communities in Xinjiang.

Countering the 22 countries’ criticism, UN ambassadors from 37 countries, including Russia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Egypt, Belarus, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and UAE, wrote a joint letter to the UN, defending China’s treatment of Uighur and other minorities in the Xinjiang region. They expressing support to China’s human rights records and policies of resolutely fighting terrorism and extremism in the region.

Rights groups describe the camps as “concentration camps” where mainly Muslim Uighurs and other minorities are being forcefully assimilated into China’s majority ethnic Han society.

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