China defends Xinjiang crackdown after criticism from European leaders
Beijing: China on Thursday defended its security crackdown in Xinjiang after French and German leaders condemned its mass detention of religious minorities in the region.
The French foreign ministry on Wednesday called on China to "put an end to mass arbitrary detentions" in Xinjiang.
German chancellor Angela Merkel on the same day told lawmakers she backed the EU's condemnation of human rights abuses in the region, and echoed calls for United Nations representatives to be allowed access to Xinjiang as soon as possible to report on the situation.
China initially denied the network of internment camps existed, but changed its position recently to say they are vocational schools that combat Islamist extremism through education and training.
China's foreign ministry on Thursday repeated previous assertions that "Xinjiang affairs are purely China's internal affairs."
"Xinjiang's local government has taken counter-terrorism and anti-extremism measures that are upright and completely beyond reproach," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing.
He added that these measures had seen "remarkable success".
In a separate statement Xinjiang's regional government on Wednesday said its camps were "not 'concentration camps' at all," and claimed "there is no restriction or deprivation of personal freedom" for detainees.
The extent and nature of the camps where around one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are being held was shown in a huge leak of government documents this month.
Recent foreign media reports on leaked internal documents "ignore the facts and slander" counter-terrorism efforts in Xinjiang, the regional government said in a statement.
Government documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and published this month showed that local officials are told to monitor inmates at all times -- including during toilet breaks -- to prevent escape.
Staff are also banned from befriending inmates and engaging in "personal interactions" to prevent "collusion", while "students...may not contact the outside world apart from during prescribed activities," according to the documents.