Beijing: Authorities in China's far-western Xinjiang region appear to have officially legalised so-called re-education camps for people accused of religious extremism, after denying such that such centres exist, a media report said on Thursday.
The Xinjiang government on Tuesday revised a local law to encourage "vocational skill education training centers" to "carry out anti-extremist ideological education", the CNN report said.
Human rights organizations have long alleged the Chinese government has been detaining hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs -- a Turkic-speaking, largely Muslim minority native to Xinjiang -- in such centres as part of an effort to enforce patriotism and loyalty to Beijing in the region.
In an August 29 report, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed alarm at reports of Uyghurs and other Muslims being held for long periods of time without charge or trial "under the pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism".
However, Hu Lianhe, a spokesman for China's United Front Work Department, told the UN Panel that "Xinjiang citizens including the Uyghurs enjoy equal freedoms and rights" in contrast to the Committee's report.
Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, said Xinjiang's regional government did not have the authority under China's constitution to legalise the detentions.
"Without due process, Xinjiang's political education centres remain arbitrary and abusive, and no tweaks in national or regional rules can change that," CNN quoted Wang as saying.
In the past year, Beijing has radically attempted to tighten its hold over the remote region following a spate of violent attacks that the government blamed on Uyghur Muslim separatists trying to establish an independent state.
In a submission to the UN, the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress estimated at least 1 million Uyghurs were being held in political indoctrination camps as of July.
Tuesday's announcement came a day after local leaders in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, announced the beginning of an anti-halal campaign.
This isn't the first time China has cracked down on elements of the Muslim faith in Xinjiang.
In 2017, authorities first banned a wide range of activities, including wearing face coverings and having a long beard.