In response to the remarks of Shohrat Zakir, chairman of the People's Government of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, that welcomes UN officials to visit the education centers, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told a press conference on Monday that "Xinjiang is an open area and we welcome all parties, including UN officials, to visit the region and respect Chinese laws."
"They should adhere to an objective and neutral attitude and avoid being biased or misguided by wrong messages," Lu said.
An official from the publicity department of Xinjiang, who requested anonymity, confirmed with the Global Times on Monday that foreign diplomats from 12 countries, including Russia, Indonesia, India, Kazakhstan and Pakistan were invited to visit vocational training and education centres in Xinjiang in late December.
A group of foreign media, including Reuters and TASS, visited the centres January 3-5.
Li Wei, a Beijing-based anti-terrorism expert, who was invited to visit the education centres in Xinjiang in November, told the Global Times that many of the 12 countries face the threat of extremism similar to Xinjiang and the visit of the diplomats to the centres would facilitate exchanges on de-extremism measures.
"Xinjiang's de-extremism measures have taken effect and helped to build a stable society. While many other countries, which have been suffering from extremism and terrorism, have yet to find an effective way," Li said.
No violent incidents happened in 23 months, which is considered an achievement of Xinjiang's current de-extremism efforts, experts said.
"Some of the 12 countries have close anti-terrorism cooperation with China. For example, China has brought back terrorist suspects from Xinjiang who fled to the Middle East via Thailand. And the southern part of Thailand is also affected by terrorism," Li said.
According to reports from The UK-based Independent, several hundred protesters staged a protest outside China's Indonesian Embassy in Jakarta in December, demanding "an end to the detention of Uyghur Muslims."
In a press conference held in Jakarta on concerns over Xinjiang's education centres, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in the country said that China protects its people's religious freedom, including the Uyghur people.
As a country with the largest population of Muslims, Indonesia was threatened by terrorists coming from the Middle East, Li said, citing two tragedies in May.
In May, at least 13 people were killed and dozens injured in multiple suicide bombings at three churches in Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city, in a coordinated attack police said was carried out by one family and their children, who returned to Indonesia from Syria.
It seems that none of the 15 countries, whose ambassadors in Beijing spearheaded by Canada sought a meeting with the top official of Xinjiang, was in the visit to the training centres.
In response to possible reasons, Li said "It would not benefit global cooperation on anti-terrorism and de-extremism if some Western countries keep holding a bias against China. Nothing in Xinjiang is sensitive when our measures in the place are aimed at protecting the people's security and interests."
Response to Attacks
Inviting these diplomats and foreign media to the education centres would be a response to some Western media's groundless reports and their attack on Xinjiang's de-extremism efforts, officials in Xinjiang reached by the Global Times said on Monday.
Some Western media accused Xinjiang of detaining Uyghur in poor living conditions and offering less food, and of not providing trainees with vocational training.
However, a report from the Pakistan-based The International News said none of the Uyghur trainees at the centres "appeared to have been mistreated."
This Pakistani media outlet was one of the foreign press agencies invited to visit Xinjiang.
Reuters reported on Sunday that trainees in the centres learned Putonghua and "Uyghur students learned in Mandarin about the dangers of extremist thought and sang and danced for reporters."
Pakistan-based The International News reported that "a number of trainees said they were previously affected by extremist thought and had participated in such kinds of art and sports activities, and were now confident to start a practical life."
However, he also warned that "the people or organizations criticizing China's Xinjiang policies regard China's position and progress in the world as a threat," and that he can already imagine what foreign press organizations which visited Xinjiang would report after the visit.
"Those who have 'anti-China thoughts' in their agenda may not be satisfied with this visit anyway," he told the Global Times.
This article originally appeared on the Global Times website.