Rumours and groundless accusations. These are the words used by China’s foreign ministry to describe reports about the country’s human rights situation. Namely, the report was issued by the United States Congressional-Executive Commission on China and it said the situation is “dire” and worsening with as many as one million Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in internment camps.

Chinese policies “aim to safeguard the social stability and security of Xinjiang and are supported by the people,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters during a regular press briefing on October 11.

“Relevant parties want to disturb such efforts. This is futile,” he said.

As reported by FRANCE 24, Beijing has a long history of accusing the US of fomenting anti-China “separatism” in Xinjiang, alleging Washington has sponsored groups advocating for the region’s independence in an attempt to weaken China.

The region, which comprises one-sixth of China’s land area, is a jumping off point for the country’s ambitious new “Belt and Road” project aimed at opening up new overland routes to increase access to markets across Asia and Europe.

Maintaining stability there has become a priority for the country’s leadership, which seeks to prevent any disruptions to its economic ambitions.

As regards the internment camps, Beijing has denied the existence of the centres, while admitting that some people accused of minor crimes have been put in correctional programmes where they receive job training.

Earlier in the week, however, Xinjiang updated its counter-terrorism and anti-extremism regulations to codify such centres, saying that people accused of minor crimes related to terrorism would be allowed to voluntarily enter the facilities instead of being jailed.