Chinese authorities said Tuesday that internment camps in the western region of Xinjiang will "gradually disappear" if a time arises when "society does not need them."
China is facing global backlash over the camps, which officials maintain are actually vocational training centers. "Some international voices say Xinjiang has concentration camps and re-education camps," Xinjiang Governor Shohrat Zakir said on the sidelines Tuesday of the annual meeting of China's ceremonial legislature. "These kinds of statements are completely fabricated lies, and are extraordinarily absurd."
Some one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic minorities are being held in the centers, the United Nations estimates. Former detainees have described harsh conditions, including psychological torture and political indoctrination.
Beijing contends the camps are part of a broader campaign to reduce the threat of Islamic extremism. "The number of people in the education centers should be less and less, and if one day society no longer needs [them], these education centers can gradually disappear," Zakir said.
The Xinjiang Party's current secretary, Chen Quanguo, enacted hard-line policies while serving as secretary in the Buddhist region of Tibet. Observers say he has imposed tighter security and surveillance measures to Xinjiang. Zakir reiterated Beijing's claim at the meeting there have been no violent incidents in Xinjiang in more than two years.
But the United States says the conditions in Xinjiang are "completely unacceptable."