China defended on Monday its crackdown on Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region after a document leak to the New York Times revealed the details of Beijing’s concerted repression efforts.
On Friday the Times published papers leaked from within China’s Communist party that detailed directives to party officials on how to handle the detention of Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslims as part of what China asserts is a campaign against Islamic extremism. Chinese president Xi Jinping was quoted as saying the government should show “absolutely no mercy” in its crackdown.
“It is precisely because of a series of preventive counterterrorism and de-extremism measures taken in a timely manner that Xinjiang, which had been deeply plagued by terrorism, has not had a violent terrorist incident for three years,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters on Monday.
China has detained roughly one million Muslims in Xinjiang, housing them in so-called reeducation camps meant to reduce prisoners’ identification with Islam and foster obedience toward the Communist party, according to international human rights groups. According to former inmates, Chinese government and military personnel regularly torture and rape prisoners. One report indicated China is pairing ethnic Han men to women whose husbands have been detained.
The Communist party-owned newspaper The Global Times reported that Uighur families with members who escaped China were actually happy with their lives. “They are ashamed of the scum among their families,” the report said.
In October, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced sanctions on Chinese officials believed to participate in the repression of Uighurs and other minorites.
“China must end its draconian surveillance and repression, release all those arbitrarily detained, and cease its coercion of Chinese Muslims abroad,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter at the time.