After years of brutal repression, China’s Communist Party tries to turn Xinjiang into a tourism hotspot

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September 30, 2023 | ABC News | By David Lipson in Xinjiang, China

Those comments fit the government’s prescribed narrative, according to Peter Irwin, Associate Director for research and advocacy at the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP).

“They follow this narrative because of this fear and this ever-present threat of punishment for stepping out of line… People are deathly afraid of saying the wrong thing, meeting the wrong person, or communicating abroad,” said Mr Irwin.

“They’ve detained people for the most basic expressions of religious expression … Having a Koran at home can get you detained for 10 years. Is that a normal society?”

“People were praying in the street, blocking cars; praying in hospitals, so doctors couldn’t help their patients; on planes, so the planes couldn’t take off.”

Describing such claims as “absurd”, Peter Irwin said the UHRP has documented the destruction of thousands of mosques and upwards of 1,500 cases of Uyghur Imams and other religious figures who have been detained or disappeared.

“The Imams have been either removed or detained or imprisoned and the Imams that remain are only allowed to have a sermon that’s directly in line with what the Chinese government is saying,” he said. 

“So religious freedom doesn’t exist at all and it’s been very much replaced by this tourist consumption attitude.”

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