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China thanks UAE for backing repressive policies against Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang

UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed met Chinese President Xi Jinping today [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 July, 2019

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Chinese President Xi has thanked Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed for his 'valuable support' for policies which have seen one million Xinjiang Muslims placed in internment camps.

China on Monday thanked the United Arab Emirates for backing its security crackdown in Xinjiang, state media said, as President Xi Jinping played host to Abu Dhabi's crown prince.

Beijing has come under growing international scrutiny for placing an estimated one million mostly Muslim members of ethnic minorities in internment camps in the name of counter-terrorism, but Muslim countries have avoided criticising China.

Rights groups and former inmates describe the camps as "concentration camps" where mainly Muslim Uighurs and other minorities are being forcefully assimilated into China's majority ethnic Han society.

During his meeting with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan in Beijing, Xi thanked the UAE for its "valuable support" on Xinjiang and urged the two countries to strengthen cooperation on anti-terrorism, said state-broadcaster CCTV.

In return, Abu Dhabi's crown prince said the UAE "highly appreciates China's efforts to protect the rights and interests of ethnic minorities", according to CCTV.

He also said the UAE would be willing to "jointly strike against terrorist extremist forces" with China, including the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, an armed group Beijing has accused of attempting to foment Uighur separatism.

Mohammed bin Zayed's visit to China came as attacks on pro-democracy protesters by gangs armed with bats in Hong Kong left 45 people injured. China has called the Hong Kong protests "intolerable". 

Beijing has been seeking international support for its repressive policies in the country's northwest Xinjiang region.

Following a flare-up in violence in 2014, Chinese authorities rolled out various draconian security measures in Xinjiang - from banning long beards and headscarves to placing up to a million residents in detention camps.

Those free from detention are said to live in what is essentially a testing ground for the world's most sophisticated high-tech surveillance methods.

Muslims in Xinjiang are forced not to fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and have allegedly been forced to drink alcohol and eat pork - both forbidden in Islam - in internment camps.

After initially denying the existence of the camps, China has been on a public relations blitz to counter the global outcry against what Beijing calls "vocational education centres".

'Great embarrassment for humanity'

So far, Beijing has scored multiple successes, with UN ambassadors from 37 countries - including majority Muslim nations Saudi Arabia and Algeria - releasing a letter earlier this month in defence of China's treatment of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

The letter came after 21 Western nations and Japan co-signed a text denouncing China's conduct in Xinjiang.

Currently, Turkey is one of the only Muslim-majority countries to have criticised China over its network of camps in the region.

In February, Turkey's foreign ministry lambasted China's treatment of Uighurs as "a great embarrassment for humanity" and said those in the centres and prisons were "subjected to torture and political brainwashing".

Ankara has, however, adopted a softer stance since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited China in July.

"I believe we can find a solution to the issue taking into account the sensitivities of both sides," Erdogan told Turkish journalists in Beijing before flying back to Turkey, according to Turkey’s Hurriyet daily.

Xi and Mohammed bin Zayed also discussed trade and China's Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious $1 trillion programme that includes maritime, rail and road projects in Asia, Africa and Europe.

According to CCTV, Xi said the two countries should aim to reach their goal of $200 billion in bilateral trade by 2030.

In 2018, two-way trade between the two countries hit $45.9 billion, according to China's commerce ministry.

Xi also called for the "good development" of the second phase of the Khalifa Port Container Terminal, as well as the China-UAE Industrial Capacity Cooperation Demonstration Zone, a joint Belt and Road project between the two countries.

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