The recent visit of Mr. Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office, to Xinjiang has drawn extensive attention. Some countries with ulterior motives took this opportunity to hype the alleged religion and human rights issues in Xinjiang, in an attempt to defame China. However, facts speak louder than words. Living in a Muslim-dominated country, many Sudanese people are concerned about the current situation of Muslims in Xinjiang. What is the real situation there?
Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, an autonomous region in the northwest of the country, is the largest provincial administrative region by geographical area in China where numerous ethnic groups live together. China implements the system of regional autonomy for ethnic groups in Xinjiang in accordance with the Constitution through the organs of self-government. All ethnic groups in the autonomous region administer their own internal affairs and enjoy equality in the autonomous areas, where discrimination against any ethnic group is strictly prohibited.
Muslim people in Xinjiang enjoy the full freedom of religion in accordance with the Constitution, with their religious beliefs, religious activities and folk customs protected and respected under the law. Xinjiang now has 25,000 venues for religious activities, including mosques, churches and temples. Among these, there are 24,400 mosques and eight religious institutes. Among the 24.4 million population of Xinjiang, nearly 13 million are Muslims, which means that one mosque is shared by every 530 Muslims on average, an even higher proportion than that of some Islamic countries. Moreover, the Chinese government periodically arranges for Muslims to collectively go on pilgrimage to Mecca every year, in a bid to guarantee the normal religious demands of religious people according to law.
All ethnic groups in Xinjiang have the freedom under the Constitution to use and develop their own spoken and written languages. The organs of self-government of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region use both Uygur and Han Chinese when they are performing their duties, and signboards displayed in public places and on public utilities are also produced in Uygur and Han Chinese. Schools in habitations of ethnic minorities carry out teaching activities in both languages of Han Chinese and Uygur, and radio and TV programs are aired in multiple languages of ethnic groups. All of these efforts effectively protect the distinctive languages of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
The Chinese government attaches high importance to exploring, carrying forward and preserving splendid traditional cultures of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang. 109 religious historical and cultural sites including Kashgar’s Id Kah Mosque are listed as Major Historical and Cultural Sites protected at the National Level. Five cities (counties) including Turpan City are designated as National Famous Historical and Cultural Cities. And currently, on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity is the Art of Xinjiang Uygur Muqam. This enables the traditional cultures of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang to be carried on from generation to generation.
However, in recent years, some western politicians and media hype up the so-called “Xinjiang issues”, accusing China of detaining and persecuting Uighur Muslims in the “re-education centers” established in Xinjiang, which is completely not in accord with the facts.
Since the 1990s, Xinjiang has been a victim of terrorist, separatist and religious extremist forces in the globe as a result of their infiltration and impacts. Incomplete statistics show that from 1990 to the end of 2016, terrorist, separatist and religious extremist forces launched thousands of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang, killing large numbers of innocent people. On July 5, 2009, a riot engineered in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, caused 197 deaths, the majority of which were common people of Han nationality , Uyghur nationality and other ethnic groups, and also injured 1,700 individuals. This attack brings enormous suffering to all ethnic groups in Xinjiang and completely deviates from the Islamic doctrine and spirit.
With a view to protecting the right to life, health and development and other basic human rights of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, the Chinese government sets up vocational education and training centers in Xinjiang according to law to teach the country’s common language, legal knowledge and vocational skills, which is a preventive measure to fight against terrorism and extremism and also an approach to protect the fundamental human rights of all ethnic groups but in no way the human rights and religion issues.
The vocational education and training centers, as the educational and preventive institutions in social governance, are aimed at educating and saving people who are influenced by extremism and those suspected of minor criminal offenses, in a bid to cure their “sickness” and help them return to and integrate themselves into the society and move back towards a normal life. This corresponds to “early intervention” stressed in the United Kingdom’s counter-terrorism strategy, the de-extremism centers established by France, the “community corrections” adopted by the United States, and the “special intervention education” proposed in the Action Plan to Prevent Violent Extremism introduced by the United Nations.
Practices have proven that vocational education and training centers effectively curb the terrorist and extremist forces in Xinjiang. The social order in Xinjiang has been substantially improved during the past 30 months, with peace and unity returning to the society and all ethnic groups living and working in peace and contentment.
As a Chinese proverb says, “words are but wind, but seeing is believing”, friends who would like to learn more about the real situation of human rights faced by Uighurs in Xinjiang might pay a visit to both south and north of the Tianshan Mountains in Xinjiang, and will surely see a Xinjiang with great beauty where all ethnic groups live with a high sense of security, gain and well-being.
Chinese Ambassador to Sudan
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