The officials did not provide figures to back up their claims, and they have been met with scepticism outside China; David Brophy, senior lecturer in modern Chinese History at the University of Sydney, said to the Wall Street Journal "How much of this employment involves forced relocation to elsewhere in China? How much of it is taking place in education camps that have now been repurposed as heavily surveilled factories?"
Uighurs can be arrested and detained under vague anti-terrorism laws. Violence in the region escalated in the 1990s and again in 2008.
In August 2014 officials in Karamay, a city of Xinjiang, banned "youths with long beards" and anyone wearing headscarves, veils, burqas, or clothes with the crescent moon and star symbol from using public transit. That May, universities across the region banned fasting during Ramadan.
Meanwhile, US officials are stepping up their criticism of China's detention of Muslims in Xinjiang, and other religious freedom abuses.
Speaking to CNA at the Vatican last week, US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said the State Department is particularly concerned with the Chinese government's use of advanced technologies, like facial recognition and a social credit score system, to marginalize people of faith in the society.
"That system is starting to be exported to other places, other authoritarian repressive regimes ... I think that is why [Secretary of State Mike Pompeo] talks about it, and it is certainly why I talk about it," Brownback said.
John Sullivan, deputy US secretary of state, said at a panel held last month on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly that "the United Nations, including its member states, have a responsibility to stand up for the human rights of people everywhere, including Muslims in Xinjiang. We urge the UN to investigate and closely monitor China's rights abuses, including the repression of religious freedom and belief."
"We cannot be the only guardians of the truth nor the only members of the international community to call out China and demand that they stop," Sullivan stated.
He concluded: "I would like to take the opportunity to commend those who have already joined us in standing up for the rights of the more than one million members of ethnic and religious minority groups the Chinese government is abusing. We invite others to join the international effort to demand and compel an immediate end to China's horrific campaign of repression."