The Chinese embassy has denied reports that families of Uighur Kiwis are disappearing into internment camps in China.
In a statement on Wednesday, it said the controversial facilities were designed to help people who are “brainwashed by extremism”.
It comes after several Uighur New Zealanders told Stuff they’d lost contact with family members after they were detained in Xinjiang, western China.
They described the facilities as “concentration camps” where Muslims could be held indefinitely, while their children were sent to state-run orphanages.
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One Auckland man claimed six of his family members – his mother, three brothers, a niece and nephew – were currently detained in the facilities.
In August, a United Nations human rights panel said it had credible reports that the detention of up to one million people was taking place in a region now resembling a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy”.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern raised the issue during talks with a visiting Chinese official in September.
But the embassy described the facilities as “vocational education and training institutions,” set up to “help people who are brainwashed by extremism get rid of terrorist and extremist ideology, so that they could return to the community as soon as possible”.
It said from the early 1990s until 2015, Xinjiang had been rocked by terrorist attacks, carried out by the “three evil forces” of terrorism, extremism and separatism.
“We should prevent [Uighurs] from becoming perpetrators and victims of terrorism, rather than cracking down on them once they become terrorists endangering others and the community. This is to protect the human rights of the majority.”
Now, Xinjiang was generally stable, with no violent terrorist attacks in the past past 21 months, it said.
The embassy also encouraged the media to “cover Xinjiang Uyhgur Autonomous Region in an objective and unbiased way, without harbouring prejudice or malice”.