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China detaining Uighur Muslims in vast numbers

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10th-Sep-2018       
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The New York Times :
On the edge of a desert in far western China, an imposing building sits behind a fence topped with barbed wire. Large red characters on the facade urge people to learn Chinese, study law and acquire job skills. Guards make clear that visitors are not welcome.
Inside, hundreds of ethnic Uighur Muslims spend their days in a high-pressure indoctrination programme, where they are forced to listen to lectures, sing hymns praising the Chinese Communist Party and write "self-criticism" essays, according to detainees who have been released.
The goal is to rid them of devotion to Islam.
Abdusalam Muhemet, 41, said the police detained him for reciting a verse of the Quran at a funeral. After two months in a nearby camp, he and more than 30 others were ordered to renounce their past lives. Muhemet said he went along but quietly seethed. "That was not a place for getting rid of extremism," he recalled. "That was a place that will breed vengeful feelings and erase Uighur identity."
    
This camp outside Hotan, an ancient oasis town in the Taklamakan Desert, is one of hundreds China has built in the past few years. It is part of a campaign of breath-taking scale and ferocity that has swept up hundreds of thousands of Chinese Muslims for weeks or months of what critics describe as brainwashing, usually without criminal charges.
Though limited to China's western region of Xinjiang, it is the country's most sweeping internment programme since the Mao era - and the focus of a growing chorus of international criticism.
China has sought for decades to restrict the practice of Islam and maintain an iron grip in Xinjiang, a region almost as big as Alaska where more than half the population of 24 million belongs to Muslim ethnic minority groups. Most are Uighurs, whose religion, language and culture, along with a history of independence movements and resistance to Chinese rule, have long unnerved Beijing.

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