Xinjiang has experienced some terrorist attacks, including a massive knife attack at a train station in 2014 in which 31 people were killed and 141 wounded, but the Chinese government has repressed reports about the extent of the attacks, the Times reports.
The main victims of the Chinese crackdown on Muslims in the region are an ethnic group called the Uighurs. An estimated 1 million Uighurs have been detained in re-education camps in Xinjiang in the past three years, as part of a widespread effort by the government to "Sinicize" religion in the country.
Inside the camps they are reportedly subjected to forced labor, torture, and political indoctrination. Outside the camps, Uighurs are monitored by pervasive police forces and facial recognition technology.
The Chinese government at one time denied the camps even existed, but has since shifted to defending its actions as a reasonable response to a national security threat.
Government officials from the region said in July that the area's re-education camps for Muslims have been successful, with most of those held having been reintegrated into Chinese society.
Uighurs can be arrested and detained under vague anti-terrorism laws. Violence in the region escalated in the 1990s and again in 2008.
During a Sept. 23 UN event on religious freedom, US vice president Mike Pence mentioned that "the Communist Party in China has arrested Christian pastors, banned the sale of Bibles, demolished churches, and imprisoned more than a million Uighurs in the Muslim population," and a fact sheet issued by the White House said the administration "is deeply concerned" for the interned Uighurs.
And the US State Department hosted a panel on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly Sept. 24 to draw attention to the "human rights crisis in Xinjiang," where partipants heard first-hand accounts of repression of Muslim groups in Xinjiang.
John Sullivan, deputy secretary of state, said at the panel that "The UN must seek the immediate, unhindered, and unmonitored access to Xinjiang for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. 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.
Pakistan is among the few Muslim-majority countries to have warned against the escalating persecution of the Uighurs.
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The US Commerce Department in October added 28 Chinese organizations to a blacklist barring them from buying products from US companies, saying they cooperate in the detention and repression of the Uighurs.