BEIJING -- Chinese treatment of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet is a "shining example" of the country's human rights progress, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Monday (February 22).
More than one million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims, including ethnic Kazakhs and Kyrgyz, are incarcerated in camps in Xinjiang where "horrific and systematic abuses" occur.
After initially denying the camps existed, Beijing now defends them as "vocational training centres" aimed at stamping out terrorism and improving employment opportunities.
A BuzzFeed News investigation published in August uncovered hundreds of compounds in the Xinjiang region bearing the hallmarks of prisons or detention camps, many of which had been built over the past three years.
Further investigations published at the end of December revealed that the communist state has continued to build more than 100 new detention facilities in Xinjiang.
In the latest outrage, former detainees and a guard recently revealed that Muslim women in these camps are systematically raped, tortured and sexually abused.
Witnesses and former detainees described torture by electric shock, including rape by guards using electrified sticks, food deprivation, beatings, gang rape and forced sterilisation.
In January, Chinese diplomats defended a recent and drastic population decline in Xinjiang as a women's rights success, dismissing credible independent research on the regime's use of forced sterilisation.
"The minds of [Uighur] women in Xinjiang were emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were promoted, making them no longer baby-making machines," China's embassy in the United States tweeted, citing an unpublished report on population change in Xinjiang since 2018 by the Xinjiang Development Research Centre.
While other countries are mulling actions over Chinese repression of Muslims, the Chinese regime has doubled down in defence of its actions.
"Places inhabited by ethnic minorities, such as Xinjiang and Tibet, have stood out as shining examples of China's human rights progress," Wang said at a forum on US-Chinese relations in Beijing.
Wang made his speech as politicians in countries including the United States condemn Chinese incarceration of minorities in Xinjiang and hours before he was scheduled to address the United Nations' annual Human Rights Council session via videolink.
Wang will "share China's philosophy, practice and experience in protecting human rights" in his speech to the council, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
But the US State Department has said Chinese actions in Xinjiang amount to genocide, and Canada is weighing a similar declaration.
Rights groups and activists say Tibetans have also suffered harsh restrictions on their religion and culture under Chinese rule -- including the demolition of monasteries -- which culminated in several self-immolation protests by Tibetans in recent years.
Reporters are banned from independent reporting in Tibet, where Beijing insists it has brought development to a previously backward region.
Wang on Monday said China was "always committed" to protecting human rights and cited the growth of per capita GDP and life expectancy in the regions as evidence of the protection of human rights.
"We believe that the rights to subsistence and development are basic human rights of paramount importance," Wang said.