China: Uighur Detention Camps are “Vocational Training Centers”

China urged the U.S. side to understand the situation clearly, remedy mistakes, immediately stop slandering China and cease interfering in China’s internal affairs, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi said during a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday.

Yang made the comments in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s signing the so-called Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 into law and U.S. House’s approval of a bill targeting China’s far west Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Chinese authorities claimed on Monday to have released all Uighur Muslims from the country’s oppressive prison camps in Xinjiang, contradicting widespread reports that at least 1 million are locked up in its vast system.

Shohrat Zakir, the Uighur governor of the western Chinese region of Xinjiang, told a Monday press conference that people in those camps are all out and living happy, fulfilled lives, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Zakir offered no evidence to support his claim. He referred to the camps as “vocational training centers” — a euphemism often used by Chinese officials to describe the prison-like camps.

Many of the Uighurs detained in those centers are white-collar professionals, and do not need vocational training, many relatives say.

Multiple activists and researchers have in recent months published satellite images appearing to show China expanding the prison-camp network, seeming to contradict any suggest that everyone would be suddenly released.

Most estimates say there are at least 1 million people locked up inside.

Zakir said everyone in those centers had “completed their courses,” according to Agence France-Presse (AFP)

Uighurs abroad say they still cannot get in touch with their vanished relatives, and it is almost impossible to speak to anyone physically in the region. Authorities in Xinjiang consider it a crime to communicate with people outside.