Human Rights Watch Warns of 'Massive Crackdown' on China's Muslims

Abdusalam Muhemet an ethnic Uighur Muslim who ran a restaurant in Hotan before fleeing China this year in Istanbul

China is carrying out a "mass, systematic campaign of human rights violations" against its mostly Muslim Uighur minority population, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says.

Available information suggests that Uyghurs may be subject to the harshest treatment at the hands of Xinjiang authorities, HRW writes, saying that since its report draws heavily on testimony from ethnic Kazakhs who have left the region, it is hard to assess the "full extent of the repressive policies in Xinjiang, particularly those directed at Uyghurs".

Security conditions in Xinjiang outside the camps had also intensified markedly and now bear "a striking resemblance to those inside", Hong Kong-based Human Rights Watch researcher Maya Wang said, based on interviews with 58 former Xinjiang residents now living overseas.

The economic sanctions over human rights violations in China would be a first for the Trump administration.

The State Department on Tuesday expressed concern following reports of mass detentions of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims, which has prompted global outcry.

Richardson called on the United Nations and concerned governments to impose sanctions on China in order to put an end to the repression in Xinjiang.

The move follows a push from USA lawmakers last month who sought to punish Chinese Communist Party officials.

The country is accused of running re-education camps, where Uighurs are forced to renounce aspects of their religious beliefs and ostensibly learn about Chinese culture.

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It also said around a million Uighur Turks are thought to be held in education camps for using foreign communication tools such as WhatsApp.

Passport controls, compulsory attendance in Mandarin night schools or flag-raising ceremonies are also common, with authorities even encouraging neighbours to spy on each other and sowing division between families.

Outside these centres, Xinjiang citizens are under mass surveillance with high-tech systems such as phone spyware, biometrics, QR codes and big data, and officials make regular visits to their homes where they stay, the report said.

Geng said that all people in China "fully enjoy freedom of religion in accordance with the law".

China has defended their crackdown in the region, saying that Islamist militants are plotting attacks in Xinjiang and are considered a serious threat.

China stepped up its restrictions on the region in the past two years, banning men from growing beards and women from wearing veils and introducing what many experts regard as the world's most extensive electronic surveillance program, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Detainees in these political re-education camps have not been charged with any crime, have no access to lawyers or contact with relatives.

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