Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for maintaining a tough approach to Uyghurs in Xinjiang, despite international criticism.
In a key speech on Saturday in the region’s capital Urumqi, Xi stressed that ‘social stability’ remained the top priority, while stressing the need for counter-terrorism measures and further ‘sinocization’ of Islam. , the predominant religion of the Uyghurs who make up the majority of the region’s indigenous population.
China’s policy in Xinjiang has come under international scrutiny in recent years, culminating in a United Nations human rights report that concluded Beijing had potentially committed crimes against humanity. The United States, which along with Europe has sanctioned some Xinjiang officials, called the situation a genocide.
Xi, however, said he “recognizes” the Xinjiang policy in his speech on Saturday.
“[We] We must combine the fight against terrorism and anti-secessionism with the legalized and regularized efforts for the maintenance of stability,” Xi said during a surprise stopover on his return from the BRICS summit in South Africa. “The sinofication of Islam must be deepened in order to effectively combat all kinds of illegal religious activities. »
China will continue to teach Uyghurs the standard Chinese language and reassign them to work outside the region, Xi said.
Activists have long argued that these policies aim to dilute ethnic identity, while Beijing says economic development is key to social stability.
“Xi stressed the need for more positive propaganda to show an open and confident Xinjiang,” according to state media CCTV. “Targeted efforts must be made to refute any inaccurate and negative press. »