KUALA LUMPUR: China’s strategy against terrorism and extremism in its western province of Xinjiang aims to eliminate the root cause - poverty.
The country’s ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) has pumped billions of yuan into the province, improving education, medical and logistical infrastructure, and creating jobs.
China’s United Front Work Department deputy director-general Zhang Baiqing said the CPC transfers 400 billion yuan every year to Xinjiang to support the development of its 19 cities.
“CPC also supported the development of modern and service industries, as well as agriculture.
“We have also built thousands of new facilities including kindergartens, hospitals and schools, as well as 20 airports,” he said as part of a dialogue with a diplomatic delegation set up by the Chinese government at its embassy in Jalan Ampang Thursday (June 20).
He added that all this has improved the living conditions of over two million households in the province.
Along with urban development in the province, re-education centres have been set up to de-radicalise those deemed by the government to be criminals and terrorists, he said.
Xinjiang Law Society executive vice-president Zhang Xiucheng said the centres are a key part of the country’s strategy to eliminate terrorism.
“It is actually a more lenient way to combat terrorism than the ways practised by some Western countries where the offenders are locked up indefinitely.
“In China, the offenders first serve their sentence and then are evaluated by the courts.
“If they are found to be high risk, they are sent to the re-education centres until they are de-radicalised,” he said.
The centres, which have come under criticism and labelled by Western media as internment camps, actually focus on three aspects, said Xiucheng.
“They are taught about the law, the common language and given vocational training.
“This is to help them learn from their mistakes and provide them a way to hold down a job and re-enter society.
“We want them to have their own lives, reunite with their families and this is a creative method to achieve that,” he said.
China’s National People’s Congress Deputy Yu Zhigang said the method is working.
“Since setting up these centres over two years ago, there are less and less offenders coming in, and more and more leaving.
“During the same period, there has been no terror attacks in Xinjiang and crime has also decreased drastically,” he said.
China has come under criticism and international scrutiny over its supposed discriminatory treatment of ethnic Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang, including the Uighurs.
Xinjiang is seen as a vital geopolitical region for China as not only is it the nation’s western gateway in its Belt and Road initiative, it is also rich in oil, minerals and is currently China's largest natural gas-producing region.
Xinjiang People's Political Consultative Congress vice-chairman Abudurekefu Tumuniyazi said some nations are “jealous” of China’s progress and are spreading rumours about what is happening in the province.
He said the rumours about so-called humanitarian violations in Xinjiang and its people were because many do not know what is really going on.
''After reform and opening up, China enjoys social stability, economic development and prosperity.
''We have advanced much in so many ways, almost on par with other civilisations that have longer history.
''For other countries, they are concerned because China only spent about 30 years to catch up to their hundreds of years of development.
''Maybe they do not want to see a stable China and resort to spreading distorted stories,'' he said, adding that it was not right to comment before really understanding something.
Abudurekefu, who is the vice-president of the China Islamic Association, reiterated that it has been China's long-standing position to uphold freedom of religious belief.
He also said that the Chinese government has built more than 40,000 mosques for the over 30 million Muslims nationwide.
''There are more than 45,000 Muslim religious workers throughout the republic.
''And we have more than 10 Islamic institutions in China focusing on training future religious workers,” he added.
China Foreign Affairs Ministry External Security Affairs Department deputy director-general Wang Lixin said she hoped the international community would look at the republic's de-radicalisation efforts objectively and fairly.
''Where bad perception is concerned, we need no explanation as our actions are justifiable and we did nothing wrong.
''In fact, the people in Xinjiang are supportive of the government's counter-terrorism efforts. Justice will prevail in everyone's heart,'' she added.