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article imageChina says EU tour of restive region gave 'objective' insight

By AFP     Jan 29, 2019 in World

China said Tuesday a recent EU delegation visit to the far-west region of Xinjiang could enhance "objective understanding" of its controversial anti-terrorism campaign as it faces global criticism over mass detentions there.

The European Union team was given rare access earlier this month to a "vocational education centre" -- the term used by China for facilities that rights groups describe as political re-education camps.

The delegation managed to gather information that builds on "compelling and mutually consistent" reports of rights abuses in the region during a three-day trip this month, although the tour was supervised by Chinese authorities, an EU official told AFP.

But Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters the visit "would help to enhance their (the EU's) objective understanding of Xinjiang's situation, especially China's practices on anti-extremism and counter-terrorism according to our own national conditions".

Up to a million Uighurs and members of other mostly Muslim minority groups are held in extrajudicial detention in camps in the Xinjiang region, according to a group of experts cited by the United Nations.

This was the first visit to Xinjiang by a multinational body such as the EU since Beijing acknowledged the existence of the camps.

It followed another trip last month, also led by the Chinese government, by diplomats from Russia and 11 Asian countries, most with large Muslim populations.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has said her office is seeking access to Xinjiang to check reports about the camps, with Beijing insisting UN officials can come only if they agree to stay out of the country's internal affairs.

Beijing says the centres help people drawn to extremism steer clear of terrorism, and allow them to be reintegrated into society.

But the programme has faced fierce criticism, notably from Washington and human rights groups.

The EU has repeatedly voiced concerns about the rights situation in Xinjiang, highlighting the issue of the camps in particular and warning that freedom of religion is being curbed.

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