Beijing, March 24
“Highly choreographed” tours to Xinjiang organised by the Chinese government are misleading and propagate false narratives about the troubled region, a US official said, after China announced plans to invite European envoys to visit.
China has been stepping up a push to counter growing criticism in the West and among rights groups about a controversial de-radicalisation programme in heavily Muslim Xinjiang, which borders Central Asia.
Critics say China is operating internment camps for Uighurs and other Muslim peoples who live in Xinjiang, though the government calls them vocational training centres and says it has a genuine need to prevent extremist thinking and violence.
China’s foreign ministry said late last week it would invite Beijing-based European diplomats to visit soon. Diplomatic sources said the so-far informal invitation had gone specifically to ambassadors and was planned for this week.
A US government official, asked by Reuters if the US ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, had been invited to visit Xinjiang, said there were no meetings or visits to announce.“Highly choreographed and chaperoned government-led tours in Xinjiang have propagated false narratives and obfuscated the realities of China’s ongoing human rights abuses in the region,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The visit this month would be the first by a large group of Western diplomats to the region since international concern about Xinjiang’s security clampdown began intensifying last year. Hundreds have died in unrest in Xinjiang in recent years.
Several groups of diplomats from other countries have already been brought to Xinjiang on tightly scripted trips since late December to visit the facilities.
There have been two visits by groups including European diplomats to Xinjiang this year. One was a small group of EU diplomats, and the other by a group of diplomats from a broader mix of countries, including missions from Greece, Hungary and North African and Southeast Asian states.
Beijing, March 24