China legalizes Xinjiang 're-education camps' after denying they exist

Opening Ceremony of a political  reeducation camp in Lopnur County, Xinjiang

By Ben Westcott and Yong Xiong, CNN
Updated 12:35 PM ET, Wed October 10, 2018

(CNN)Authorities in China's far-western Xinjiang region appear to have officially legalized so-called re-education camps for people accused of religious extremism, a little more than a month after denying such centers exist.

The Xinjiang government on Tuesday revised a local law to encourage "vocational skill education training centers" to "carry out anti-extremist ideological education."

Human rights organizations have long alleged the Chinese government has been detaining hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs -- a Turkic-speaking, largely Muslim minority native to Xinjiang -- in such centers as part of an effort to enforce patriotism and loyalty to Beijing in the region.

In an August 29 report, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed alarm at reports of Uyghurs and other Muslims being held for long periods of time without charge or trial "under the pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism."

    US Vice President Mike Pence made a similar accusation in a speech last week at the Hudson Institute.

    "Survivors of the camps have described their experiences as a deliberate attempt by Beijing to strangle Uyghur culture and stamp out the Muslim faith," Pence said.