China region gives legal basis for Muslim internment camps

Beijing denies it is systematically violating rights of Xinjiang’s Muslims

The revised law in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, which takes immediate effect, comes amid rising global attention on the secretive camps, in which up to 1 million ethnic Uygurs and other Muslims are reported to have been detained and subjected to enforced political re-education.

New clauses adopted by the regional government officially permit the use of "education and training centers" to reform "people influenced by extremism".

The move is likely to further raise worldwide concerns over human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region where many Uighurs, who oppose growing state surveillance, have been detained under the "reeducation" campaign.

Chinese officials have denied enforcing arbitrary detention and political re-education across a network of secret camps, instead saying that some citizens guilty of minor offences were sent to vocational centres to provide future employment opportunities. Former detainees have told rights groups that they were forced to denounce Islam and made to profess their loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party.

"It's a retrospective justification for the mass detainment of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang", said James Leibold, a scholar of Chinese ethnic policies at Melbourne's La Trobe University.

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China launched its "Strike Hard" campaign targeting separatism in Xinjiang in 2014 following deadly violence in the region.

China's western region of Xinjiang may have just legalized so-called "re-education camps" for a religious minority in the area accused of being extremists.

In a meeting on Monday, the Communist Party leaders of Urumqi city led cadres to swear an oath to "fight a decisive battle against "pan-halalisation", according to a notice posed on the city's official WeChat account.

The official Global Times said that the "demand that things be halal which can not really be halal" was fuelling hostility towards religion, and allowing Islam to penetrate secular life.

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