China successfully concluded a counterterrorism forum last week in Beijing that attracted representatives from the military and police forces of 31 nations, including France, Pakistan and Israel, a defense ministry spokesman said Thursday.
The four-day Great Wall 2019 International Forum on Counterterrorism, whose theme was “special force sniping,” allowed participants to exchange strategies and experiences, Ren Guoqiang told reporters at a monthly briefing.
China has been accused of using terrorism accusations to justify crackdowns on peaceful protests and religious cultural activities, especially among minority groups such as Tibetans and Uighurs.
An estimated 1 million Uighurs and members of other Muslim minority groups such as Kazakhs are held in prison-like detention centers — many for indefinite terms — amid reports of harsh treatment and poor living conditions.
After at first denying their existence, China now says they are training schools meant to teach life skills to those at risk of being recruited by Islamic extremists and “terrorists.”
Scores of people have been killed in the northwestern region of Xinjiang and elsewhere in China over the past decade in attacks blamed on violent separatists. An unknown number of suspects disappeared into police custody, while others were sentenced under vague national security charges.
The US, researchers and rights groups estimate that as many as 1 million ethnic Muslims may be arbitrarily detained in Xinjiang.
Earlier this week, the vice-governor of Xinjiang responded to international condemnation of state-run detention camps saying they were vocational centers that were helping “save” people from extremist influences.
Vice-Governor Erkin Tuniyaz made the remarks to the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, in an appearance the US called “an embarrassment to the Council, which once again has granted a representative of one of the world’s worst human rights abusers a platform for propaganda.”
The US withdrew from the Geneva rights body over a year ago over its alleged bias against Israel.