Paramilitary policemen patrol the area around Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Photograph:( Reuters )
Tough security measures have prevented the restive Chinese region of Xinjiang from turning into "China's Syria", a state-run newspaper said Monday after a UN report raised concerns about the treatment of the mostly Muslim Uighur minority.
The Global Times defended the crackdown in the far-west region after the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was told on Friday that some three million people are being or have been held in "counter-extremism" and "re-education" camps in Xinjiang.
In an editorial, the daily accused the West of trying to "stir trouble for Xinjiang and destroy the hard-earned stability in the region".
"The turnaround in Xinjiang's security situation has avoided a great tragedy and saved countless lives," the newspaper wrote in its English and Chinese editions.
While the tabloid noted that police posts "can be seen everywhere" in Xinjiang, it did not mention the camps.
The editorial said the security crackdown has prevented the region from becoming "China's Syria" or "China's Libya".
The Chinese delegation began responding to the allegations on Monday at the committee in Geneva.
Chinese authorities have denied the existence of such camps despite mounting evidence from both official documents and testimonies from those who have been held in them.
"In the name of combating religious extremism and maintaining social stability (China) has changed the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy," Gay McDougall, vice-chair of the committee, said on Friday.
She said upwards of one million ethnic Uighurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities are being held in counter-extremism centres and another two million "have been forced" into re-education camps for "political and cultural indoctrination".
China has stepped up a crackdown in Xinjiang against what it calls Islamic extremism and separatist elements but many Muslims in the region accuse Beijing of religious and cultural repression.
In a region that shares borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan, Muslims face regulations banning beards and veils as well as the distribution of unauthorised Korans.