Chinese ambassador to the US says mass surveillance and oppression of Muslim minority is to make them 'normal persons'

OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty ImagesChina is launching an unprecedented crackdown on the Uighurs, a majority-Muslim ethnic minority in its west. Here, a demonstrator wearing a mask painted with the colours of the Xinjiang — or East Turkestan — flag and a hand bearing the colours of the Chinese flag in Istanbul in 2009.
  • China’s ambassador to the US defended his country’s unprecedented crackdown on the Uighurs, its majority-Muslim ethnic minority.
  • Cui Tian kai said the country was “trying to re-educate most of them, trying to turn them into normal persons [who] can go back to normal life.”
  • He also said that China would retaliate against any sanctions the US impose on China over the Uighur issue.

China’s ambassador to the US has described his country’s unprecedented crackdown on its Muslim minority as a measure “to turn them into normal persons.”

Authorities have subjected the Uighurs – a majority-Muslim, Turkic ethnic minority populated in western China – to an unprecedented amount of surveillance in their home region,Xinjiang. Uighurs refer to the region as East Turkestan.

Xinjiang yingye'er campBitter Winter/YouTubeScreenshot from footage by Bitter Winter magazine purporting to show the inside of a prison camp for Uighurs.

Earlier this year activists accused China of imprisoning up to 1 million Uighurs in detention centres or re-education camps, a characterization China has routinely fought against. Beijing justifies its crackdown against Uighurs as a counterterrorism measure, and called the camps “free vocational training” that make Uighurs’ life “colourful.”

Cui Tiankai, the Chinese ambassador, hit back at those accusations again, telling Reuters in an interview published Tuesday: “We are trying to re-educate most of them, trying to turn them into normal persons [who] can go back to normal life.”

The Trump administration is reportedly considering sanctions to target companies and officials over Xinjiang, including Chen Quanguo, the regional Communist Party secretary who is considered the architect of the Uighur crackdown.

Earlier this month, a group of congressmen also introduced a bipartisan bill to pressure the White House into consider banning exports of US technology that could be used to oppress Uighurs and imposing sanctions against human rights offenders.

Read more:
China tells Congress to back off after planned legislation looks to sanction Beijing over imprisoning Muslims

XinjiangKevin Frayer/Getty ImagesActivists say China has detained up to 1 million Uighurs in Xinjiang alone. Uighur men meet a a teahouse in July 2017.

Cui said China would hit back on any sanctions the US would impose on China over the Uighur issue. He told Reuters: “If such actions are taken, we have to retaliate.” He did not say how exactly Beijing would react.

He also likened China’s crackdown on the Uighurs to the US fight against the Islamic State terror group.

“Can you imagine [if] some American officials in charge of the fight against ISIS would be sanctioned?” he said.

Read more:
China is locking up its Muslim minorities, and pushing Islamophobia to get Europe to do it too

Earlier this week Bitter Winter, an online magazine reporting on human rights in China, published footage from inside a detention center in Yingye’er, western Xinjiang.

The footage shows a series of dorm rooms fitted with double iron doors and tightly secured windows, making the compound look like a conventional prison.

Read more:
Shocking footage purportedly shows cells inside prison camp where China oppresses Muslim minority

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