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Last week, 22 mostly Western countries launched the world’s first major collective challenge to China’s crackdown on Uyghur Muslims and other minorities.

In a joint statement to the High Commissioner of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, the nations criticized Beijing for what they described as “disturbing reports of large-scale arbitrary detentions” and “widespread surveillance and restrictions.”

A day later, 37 other countries jumped to Beijing’s defense, with their own letter praising China‘s human rights record, and dismissing the reported detention of up to two million Muslims in western China’s Xinjiang region. Nearly half of the signatories were Muslim-majority nations, including Pakistan, Qatar, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, according to the Chinese government.

“Faced with the grave challenge of terrorism and extremism, China has undertaken a series of counter-terrorism and deradicalization measures in Xinjiang, including setting up vocational education and training centers,” the letter said, according to Reuters, which saw a copy of the letter. The letter went on to say that there had been no terrorist attacks in the past three years in the region, and that the people there were happy, fulfilled and secure.

The language in the letter echoed previous claims made by China, which has denied allegations of torture or forced political indoctrination in Xinjiang and said that the camps were “vocational training centers” designed to fight terrorism and combat Islamic extremism.

But reports of China’s abuse of Muslims in the Xinjiang region are rampant. Many Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities are believed to have been hauled into conditions that activists call re-education camps.

Accounts given to CNN by former detainees describe being forced into the camps under the threat of violence. Detainees who have since fled China say they were forced to renounce Islam while pledging loyalty to China’s ruling Communist party, according to a report by the Council of Foreign Relations. Read more

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