China on Wednesday denounced “lies” after criticism from France on the situation of the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang, in the north-west of the country. “We are strongly opposed to the use of religious issues for political purposes and to interfere in China’s internal affairs,” said Chinese diplomacy spokesman Wang Wenbin.
The French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, on Tuesday deemed the internment of members of the Uyghur minority “unacceptable” and said, on behalf of France, to condemn it “with great firmness”.
“What transpires from all the information we have or read are internment camps for Uyghurs, mass detentions, disappearances, forced labor, forced sterilizations, the destruction of Uyghur cultural heritage and in particularly places of worship, surveillance of the population and more generally the entire repressive system in place in this region, ”explained the head of French diplomacy.
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This question “must obviously be part of the discussion we are having with our Chinese partners,” the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, said on Franceinfo. He did not comment on the existence of possible imports into France of masks that would be manufactured in forced internment centers in China.
These positions come as images, apparently dating from 2018, have been widely disseminated in recent days showing Uyghur prisoners in Xinjiang preparing to board trains to be deported. Last week, the Chinese Ambassador to the UK was confronted with these video clips by the BBC.
Washington, like other Western capitals and human rights organizations, accuses China of interning at least one million Muslims in the Xinjiang region.
China denies this figure and claims that they are vocational training centers, intended to help the population find jobs in order to distance them from the temptation of Islamist extremism.