Christian Uyghurs are among thousands being sent to internment camps in China’s remote northwestern Xinjiang region, a newspaper has reported.
China’s authorities have drawn widespread criticism for placing some one million Muslim Uyghurs and Muslims from other minorities in a sprawling system of internment camps. Beijing has described them as vocational education centers aimed at preventing religious extremism.
But the Globe and Mail says not only Muslims have been rounded up, but also Uyghurs who have converted to Christianity, and ethnic majority Han Chinese who have challenged local authorities by petitioning for official redress.
The paper said the developments are an indication that China’s campaign goes beyond its stated goal of countering Islamic terrorism.
China has come under international pressure over the mass detentions, along with evidence of oppressive surveillance of ethnic Uyghurs.
Diplomats and rights groups have accused China of religious persecution and attempting to stamp out Uyghur identity. China has denounced the criticism, calling it inaccurate and an interference in its affairs.
Six accounts from people who have lived in the Xinjiang region or have family there reveal that others are also being incarcerated, according to the newspaper report.
“We know of at least 14 Christians” who have been taken away by authorities in Xinjiang, said Robert Paix, a Christian businessman who has lived and worked in the region, in part to share his faith.
“Islam is just one of the matrix of problems the Chinese government has with Uyghur people,” he told the paper.