Richmond federal candidate defends China's re-education camps

A Richmond man who ran in the recent federal election as an independent is defending the Chinese government’s treatment of Uighurs, a Muslim minority in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang.

In response to a story on CTV, Zhang Zhe tweeted out on Sunday that the reporter had “missed the most important point” and that “attendees (at a forum on human rights organized by China) believed the Vocational Education and Training Centers are much better than terrorist attack, bloody war and millions of refugees.”

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The Chinese government has put about a million Uighurs into “re-education” camps - which they call “Vocational Education and Training Centres."

However, many media outlets have reported that they are subjected to harsh conditions, attempts to brainwash them and purge them of their Muslim identity.



But Zhe said these camps are the Chinese government’s way of fighting terrorism – a reference to violence and unrest and calls for independence by Uighur separatists.

“If you let me choose between re-education camps of Chinese government and terrorist attacks, bloody civil war and millions of refugees, I will say the 'camps' are a good move,” Zhe told the Richmond News.

The event Zhe was referring to was the "South-South human rights forum," which included representatives from North Korea, Pakistan and Syria.

China has been responding to international criticism of the Uighur re-educations camps with a counter-narrative, emphasizing security and economic development over civil and political freedoms.

"The people of each country all have the right to decide for themselves their human rights development path," Chinese vice foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu said at a summit on the issue.

One of the speakers at the forum was a political adviser to President Bashar al-Assad, who has been accused of a series of chemical attacks and indiscriminate bombings of civilian targets in Syria's civil war.

"I believe China can, with the help of all developing countries, redefine human rights," Bouthaina Shaaban said in a speech that blasted Western countries for wanting to "create all of us in their own image."

When asked about China’s record on human rights, Zhe said “it's difficult to discuss human rights in the battlefield.”

Zhe said the re-education camps are meant to improve Uighurs’ job skills, and it’s no surprise there is some communist party propaganda included.

“But so-called brain-washing is not the key of this issue, the key is to prevent terrorism,” Zhe said.

During the federal campaign, Zhe defended the Chinese government. At one all-candidates forum – where he hadn’t been invited to participate - he was outside holding a sign that read: “Instead of demonizing China, let’s learn from China, adjust Canada’s economic structure, foster strategic emerging industries, build new pillar industries, develop and prosper rural Canada.”

Zhe ran as an independent in Richmond Centre, but he only garnered 197 votes, or half a per cent of the total votes cast.

  • With files from Agence France-Presse

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