China's detention of religious and ethic minorities, notably Uighur Muslims, is the "largest internment of civilians in the world today," outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Monday night. "It may be the largest since World War II," she added, labeling the arrangement "straight out of George Orwell."
"At least a million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities have been imprisoned in so-called 're-education camps' in western China," Haley reported, accusing Beijing of using torture to force them "to renounce their religion and to pledge allegiance to the Communist Party."
China on Tuesday responded with its most significant defense of the camps to date, tacitly admitting detainees are held at length against their will. Shohrat Zakir, chair of the government in the Xinjiang autonomous region where many Uighurs live, told state-run media the facilities are "humane" vocational training centers with amenities including air conditioning, sports, and movie screenings. He described them as a useful tool for opposing "terrorism and extremism."
"Today's Xinjiang is not only beautiful but also safe and stable," he said. "No matter where they are or at what time of the day, people are no longer afraid of going out, shopping, dining, and traveling." Zakir is himself an ethnic Uighur.