Paramilitary police officers take part in a gathering to mobilise security operations in Xinjiang. Picture: REUTERS
Paramilitary police officers take part in a gathering to mobilise security operations in Xinjiang. Picture: REUTERS

Beijing — China’s far-western Xinjiang region has inserted new clauses into its anti-extremism laws that prescribe the use of "vocational training centres" to "educate and transform" those influenced by extremist ideology.

Reports of mass detentions and strict surveillance of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslims have sparked a growing international outcry, prompting the US to consider sanctions against officials and firms linked to allegations of human rights abuses.

Chinese officials have denied enforcing arbitrary detention and political re-education in a network of secret camps, saying instead that some citizens guilty of minor offences are sent to vocational centres for future employment opportunities.

China says Xinjiang faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists and has rejected all accusations of mistreatment in an area where hundreds have been killed in recent years in unrest between Uyghurs and members of the Han Chinese majority.

The three new clauses are the first time the regulations, which first came into effect in April 2017, refer to vocational training centres.

"Governments above the county level can set up education and transformation organisations and supervising departments such as vocational training centres, to educate and transform people who have been influenced by extremism," one of the clauses said.

Separately, Xinjiang has launched a campaign against halaal products to stop Islam penetrating secular life and fuelling "extremism".

In a meeting on Monday, the Communist Party leaders of Urumqi led cadres to swear an oath to "fight a decisive battle against ‘pan-halaalisation’," according to a notice on the city’s WeChat account.

As part of the anti-halaal campaign, Ilshat Osman, Urumqi’s ethnically Uyghur head prosecutor, penned an essay entitled: "Friend, you do not need to find a halaal restaurant specially for me."

According to the WeChat post, government employees should not have any diet problems and work canteens would be changed so that officials could try all kinds of cuisine.

The Communist Party in August issued a revised set of regulations governing its members’ behaviour, threatening punishment or expulsion for anyone who clung to religious beliefs.