July 23, 2020 / 2:52 PM / 20 days ago

China says France being misled by Western 'slander' over Uighur Muslims

PARIS (Reuters) - China’s embassy on Thursday hit back at French criticism of Beijing’s treatment of Uighur Muslims, saying French politicians were being misled by a slanderous American, Australian and British campaign.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Tuesday said the situation for Uighur Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang was unacceptable, asking that the Chinese authorities allow independent observers to enter the region.

He said Paris was not only basing its position on testimonies relayed by rights groups, but that it drew its conclusions from its own sources that there were imprisonment camps for Uighurs, mass detentions, disappearances, forced labour, forced sterilisations and the destruction of the Uighur heritage.

The comments drew a rebuttal in China on Wednesday with its foreign ministry spokesman describing the claims as lies.

Le Drian said on Wednesday his position remained unchanged despite the Chinese reaction and that if Beijing wanted to avoid criticism the right thing to do would be to allow observers into Xinjiang.

In response, the Chinese embassy on Thursday published a long defence of its policy in Xinjiang on its website, denying the claims and saying French politicians were being misled.

“Recently, some American, Australian and British politicians and a few so-called Western ‘human rights organisations’ have launched a new campaign of slander against China’s Xinjiang,” the embassy spokesman wrote.

“Driven by political ends, they fabricated a whole series of sensational lies which touched public opinion and even misled certain politicians in France.”

The text dismissed as “absurd” reports of Xinjiang having established internment or re-education camps in which a million Uighurs were held.

“The reality is that the vocational education and training centres set up in Xinjiang under the law, and which are similar to de-radicalisation centres in France and other countries, are a useful counter-terrorism and de-radicalisation measure,” the spokesman said.

Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Nick Macfie

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