China Calls Xinjiang Human Rights Violations Claims 'Lie of the Century'

China's foreign ministry on Monday called accusations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang the "lie of the century" after the U.S. embassy in Beijing retweeted a State Department report into the systemic mistreatment of Muslim minorities.

At a regular press briefing, ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijiang called U.S. government reports into the subject "fabrications," despite widespread public reports to the contrary.

Rights groups and media reports cited by the State Department say more than a million Uyghurs—Turkic Muslims living in China's northwestern Xinjiang region—have been detained in "re-education camps," where they are forced to learn Han Chinese culture and taught Communist Party doctrine.

Recent reports have also documented a policy of "forced labor" in the autonomous region. Hundreds of thousands of detainees are believed to be working in factories or picking cotton against their will for a booming industry which exports to countries including the United States.

Huawei has also been implicated in recent journals about the human rights violations. The Chinese telecommunications giant is said to have supplied facial recognition technology that allows for the widespread surveillance of Uyghurs.

"The [People's Republic of China] has taken its decades-long repressive policies in Xinjiang to the extreme since April 2017, detaining more than one million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs and Kyrgyz, and members of religious minority groups in internment camps in a systematic effort to eradicate their ethnic and cultural identity and religious beliefs, and control their population growth," a State Department report read.

Zhao, China's foreign ministry spokesperson, described the allegations as "disinformation" created by "anti-China politicians."

"The disinformation on Xinjiang fabricated by some American politicians is the biggest 'lie of the century,'" he said.

Beijing has consistently denied accusations of ethnic and religious oppression in the area. Concentration camps are described as schools or vocational centers, where "learners" undergo deradicalization as part of a counterterrorism campaign.

Zhao cited a recent press conference held in Beijing, where government officials and select residents from Xinjiang spoke of the region's "social stability" and "economic growth." He encouraged U.S. officials to read the transcript.

Meanwhile, Beijing has previously rejected calls from the European Union and United Nations member states to allow independent observers into Xinjiang.

At Monday's press event, Zhao also took aim at U.S. embassy officials for failing to "fulfill their duty" of promoting bilateral relations. He accused the mission of publishing over 60 pieces of false information.

In addition to public denials, China has also been making use of state media outlets in its attempts to dictate the narrative on Xinjiang. English-language publications such as the nationalistic tabloid Global Times have put out its own reports in attempts to counter investigations done by the BBC and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, among others.

In July, the Trump administration sanctioned Communist Party officials it said were involved or complicit in the human rights abuses in Xinjiang, which borders Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan to the west, and Pakistan and India to the south.

The Uyghur Human Rights Project told Newsweek earlier this month that there was some concern among the Uyghur community that the incoming administration of President-elect Biden would not be tough enough on China.

However, bipartisan support on the issue in Washington and Biden's ability to command a coalition of nations to pressure China were both encouraging signs, the NGO said.

China Border Police Patrol Xinjiang Outskirts
File photo: Chinese border police patrol Altay, Xinjiang. TPG/Getty Images