The Chinese government has held an extraordinary press conference in Canberra, trotting out members of a Muslim ethnic minority to deny they had been persecuted by the communist nation.
The Chinese embassy in Canberra invited Australian journalists to the meeting on Wednesday to defend Beijing’s human rights record in Xinjiang Province, where human rights groups believe more than a million Muslim Uyghurs have been sent to internment camps.
But in a surreal press conference, Chinese ambassador Cheng Jingye insisted Uyghurs were not subjected to oppression in Xinjiang.
Journalists were shown a six-minute propaganda video – entitled “Xinjiang is a Wonderful Land” – depicting the region as one of “economic development, social stability, livelihood improvement and religious harmony”.
“Over some time, there has been quite some distorted coverage about Xinjiang in certain Western media,” a Chinese government spokesman told the journalists at the start of the press conference.
“Those reports are basically based on disinformation or misinformation.
“Today’s press conference is to help you Australian journalists to have a better understanding of the actual situation in Xinjiang.”
China has long insisted the camps are designed to quell a growing separatist movement in the region, driven by the Uyghur population.
It comes amid a growing international outcry over the abuse of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
Canada’s parliament in February declared a genocide was under way in the region, while UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab accused China of a “highly disturbing program of oppression” last month.
“This is one of the worst human rights crises of our time and I believe the evidence is clear, as it is sobering,” he said.
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