Introduction

This timeline documents the changing Communist Party of China response to accusations of human rights violations in Xinjiang. As human rights groups have identified internment camps and forced labour in the region, China has denied these accusations, giving changing explanations since 2018.


  • Chinese news begins to report “anti-extremist” boarding education centers opening up in Xinjiang. There is no governmental response to accusations of human rights violations. China intensifies anti-terrorism policy and policing in the region.

  • Following UN statement that 1 million Uyghurs were being detained in Xinjiang, the Chinese delegation fully denies the existence of camps or detainment. The foreign minister further denies any “re-education camps” The delegation and foreign minister also state that anti-terrorism policy does not target any specific religious or ethnic groups.

  • CCTV releases a segment showing a ‘vocational education center’ asserting these centers are aimed at de-radicalization and job training. This follows regulation allowing the local government to set up “education centers” with boarding aimed towards those suspected of terrorism.

  • Governor of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Shohrat Zakir, denies accusations of concentration camps in the region. Instead he affirms that there is “vocational training” similar to boarding schools in which students are guaranteed freedom.

  • China releases a white paper entitled ‘The Fight Against Terrorism and Extremism and Human Rights Protections in Xinjiang’. The white paper cites “education and training centers” being established for de-radicalization and rehabilitation, stating the centers are in accordance with the law.

  •  In a press conference, Governor Shohrat Zakir declares that most “students” have left what he refers to as “vocational training centers” for deradicalization and education. He states that the centers have been essential for Uyghurs to enter the job market, eliminating poverty.

  • Beijing releases a white paper entitled “Vocational Education and Training in Xinjiang”. The paper states that “vocational education and training centers” have been established to end extremism and terrorism in Xinjiang. The paper notes that the centers focus on job skills, law education, and deradicalization. China also asserts commitment to ensuring “trainees” basic rights.

  • The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region’s government commits to having at least half a million “training and education sessions” between 2019 and 2021. The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region government states that this training will be vocational and focussed on unemployed workers, high school graduates, and those living in poverty.

  • In a statement after the publication of leaked documents by the New York Times, a spokesperson for Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region denies all accusations of detainment and internment camps. The spokesperson points to “education and training centers” for those suspected or found guilty of extremist activity only.

  • In a press release, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Regions Governor Shohrat Zakir asserts that all “trainees” have graduated and left the various “education and training centers” in Xinjiang.

  • The Chinese foreign minister states that China has contributed to the global fight against terrorism, citing “education and training centers” as key in deradicalization and the eradication of poverty. He states that due to these centres, Xinjiang has not had a terrorist attack in three years.

  • A Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region government spokesperson denies the spreading of COVID-19 in “education and training centers” stating all trainees have graduated. The spokesperson reconfirms that there were no “camps” in Xinjiang but “school-like institutions” to prevent terrorism.

  • China releases a white paper entitled “Employment and Labour Rights in Xinjiang” which re-states China’s commitment to development and security in Xinjiang. The paper mentions “vocational training” as essential to job creation and to ending poverty in the region.

  • During a press conference pertaining to Xinjiang, representatives re-state that there are no longer “vocational education and training centers” in Xinjiang. Government representatives deny any human rights abuses are occurring in Xinjiang, focussing on dispelling forced labour accusations.

  • Xinjiang officials hold various press conferences in Beijing focused on dispelling international concerns regarding ongoing human rights violations. Largely focusing on accusations of forced labour, officials state that all work and training in Xinjiang is voluntary. They also denied accusations of forced marriage and sterilization.

  • Ambassador Cui Tiankai rejects concerns of human rights abuses by Western countries. The ambassador also reconfirms China’s fight against terrorism and the promotion of stability in Xinjiang .

References:

Bai Tiantian, “Xinjiang to Launch Anti-Extremism Regulation”, Global Times, 9 March 2017

“China contributes to global anti-terror cause with deradicalization efforts in Xinjiang: FM”, Global Times, 9 Jan 2020

“China Focus: Xinjiang determined in counter-terrorism, deradicalization, maintaining development”, Xinhuanet, 10, December 2019

Cui Jia, “Situation in Xinjiang Stable: region chairman”, China Daily, 12 March 2019.

Deng Xiaoci, “Xinjiang Offers 15 Years of Free Education to Residents”, Global Times, 20 November 2017

Lily Kuo, “From Denial to Pride: How China Changed its Language on Xinjiang’s Camps”, The Guardian, 22 October 2018

Lily Kuo, “China Denies Violating Minority Rights amid Detention Claims”, The Guardian, 13 August 2018

Liu Xin and Fan Lingzhi, “Xinjiang free of COVID-19, slams rumor of infection among trainees”, Global Times, 12 March 2020

Liu Xin and Xie Wenting, “90% of Xinjiang Center Graduates Get Good Jobs”, Global Times, 30 July 2019

“Remarks by Ambassador Cui Tiankai At the ‘Xinjiang Is a Wonderful Land’ Online Meeting”, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States of America, 6 May 2021.

“Spokesperson of the People’s Government of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China dismisses fabricated and distorted reports by western media”, Permanent Mission of the PRC to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Other International Organizations in Switzerland, 3 December 2019

“Xinjiang to offer over half million vocational training sessions each year”, Global Times, 16 October 2019

Zhang Hui, “China Slams UN Comments on Xinjiang as ‘Irresponsible’”, Global Times, 31 August 2018

“The 4th Press Conference by Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Xinjiang Related Issues in Beijing”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, 18 February 2021.

“The 6th Press Conference by Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Xinjiang Related Issues in Beijing”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, 31 March 2021

“The 7th Press Conference by Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Xinjiang Related Issues in Beijing”, Tianshannet, 10 April 2021