Vocational Training With Chinese Characteristics
  • Wed, 11/28/2018 - 20:45


BY Thorsten Benner
27 Nov 2018

During his visit to Beijing in mid-November, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas publicly discussed the situation in China’s northwestern province of Xinjiang. According to satellite images as well as reports by journalists, academics and human rights organizations, up to one million citizens belonging to the predominantly Muslim Uighur minority are currently detained in so-called reeducation camps. The rest of the population lives under total surveillance and is subjected to mass DNA testing. Intimidation and surveillance by Chinese state authorities also extend to citizens of Uighur and others of Turkic descent living in Western countries. Maas called for “transparency” and said that the camps were unacceptable, forcing Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to issue a public response. He was the first member of the central government to comment on the situation in Xinjiang. Wang dismissed the Western reports as “rumors,” calling the camps “preventive measures” and “completely in line with the direction the international community has taken to combat terrorism.” At the same time, he emphasized that this was all an “internal matter.” Wang echoed the words of the Chinese embassy in Berlin, which had accused Germany of a “striking interference into internal affairs and a grave violation of China’s sovereignty” after the German parliament held a debate on the situation in Xinjiang. China has used similar language to push back against a coordinated letter by 15 Western ambassadors in Beijing to the Communist Party chief in Xinjiang, in which they demand a meeting to discuss the situation in the province. The spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry called the letter “rude and inacceptable,” and denounced it as exceeding the ambassadors’ “mandate under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.”