Report Shows Sharp Rise in Arrests in China’s Troubled Xinjiang Province

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Originally published by Latin American Herald Tribune on July 25, 2018

BEIJING – The number of arrests in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province rose sharply in 2007 owing to a government crackdown that allegedly targeted religious and ethnic minorities such as the Uighurs, nonprofit China Human Rights Defenders said on Wednesday.

According to a report by CHRD, arrests in Xinjiang rose around 700 percent as compared to 2016, with the number of detentions crossing 227,000 during the year.

The arrests in the region accounted for around 21 percent of total arrests in the country last year, although the population of Xinjiang is just 1.5 percent of the national population, the report added.

The nonprofit linked the dramatic rise in arrests to a government campaign against terrorism, separatism and religious extremism.

The report said hundreds of thousands of Uighurs – a Muslim ethnic minority group – have been detained in “extra-judicial re-education camps” and were reportedly being forced to eat pork and drink alcohol – banned in Islam – as psychological pressure tactics.

According to the nonprofit, the growing repression in Xinjiang is part of a hardline strategy by the Communist Party of China’s secretary for Xinjiang, Chen Quanguo, who took charge in August 2016.

Chen had implemented similar hardline measures in Tibet, another ethnic-minority region considered “unstable” by the Chinese government.

The report, published ahead of an imminent review by the UN of China’s implementation of a convention on racial discrimination, said Chen was also responsible for a 92-percent rise in spending on regional security and a boost in police recruitment.

China had signed and ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 1981, although human rights organizations have accused Beijing of repressing minorities such as the Uighurs and Tibetans under the guise of combating terrorism and separatism.

Xinjiang had witnessed widespread unrest in 2009 when the government had attempted to settle the majority Han community in the Uighur-majority region.

The province also became a hotbed of insurgent activities in 2013 and witnessed a spate of attacks by separatist groups.

The resource-rich province is of great strategic importance to projects under China’s One Belt One Road plan that would connect the country to the rest of Asia.

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