Ambassador Zhou Pingjian: Vocational Education in Xinjiang A Good Experience in Countering Extremism
On August 23, 2019, Nigerian leading newspaperVanguardpublished an article entitled Vocational Education and Training in Xinjiang: A Good Experience in Countering Extremism, written by Ambassador of China to Nigeria Dr. ZHOU Pingjian. The full text goes as follows:
Terrorism and extremism are the common enemies of humanity, and the fight against terrorism and extremism is the shared responsibility of the international community. Over the years, to ensure public safety and wellbeing, the international community has spared no effort and made tremendous sacrifices in preventing and combating terrorism and extremism. Many countries and regions, in light of their own conditions, have developed effective measures and drawn valuable lessons from these efforts.
In his Sallah message early this month, President Muhammadu Buhari advised parents to protect their children from the deadly exposure to violent extremists who manipulate and exploit them for their own evil agenda.
“Extremism is like a cancer, which must be detected and destroyed from its early stages of growth,” the President said.
We could not agree with President Buhari more on his insightful observations. In China, what Xinjiang’s vocational education and training is doing is exactly to treat extremism as a cancer from its early stages of growth. And it works wonders.
On August 16, a white paper titled Vocational Education and Training in Xinjiang, released by China's State Council Information Office, tells about the different aspects of the programs, responding to the so-called concerns harbored by some countries, organizations and figures.
For some time, Xinjiang, a key battlefield in the fight against terrorism in China, has been plagued by terrorism and religious extremism, victimizing innocent civilians and police. So it is absolutely just and lawful for Xinjiang to carry out the anti-terrorism and deradicalization efforts to ensure long-term stability and prosperity and protect people's rights to life, health and development. Terrorism and extremism must be addressed so as not to ruin the considerable development achievements of Xinjiang since its peaceful liberation in 1949.
Xinjiang’s practice of educating and rehabilitating the victims of terrorist and religious extremist teachings through vocational education and training centers is similar to efforts by many other countries and regions, with the same goals of dealing with the problem at source and protecting people’s basic human rights.
It’s fair to say that Xinjiang’s vocational education and training programs have achieved notable results, and contributed experience to international actions against terrorism and extremism.
As for fighting against terrorism and extremism in Xinjiang, we follow five principles:
First, the government fights extremism in accordance with local conditions. In its vocational education and training, Xinjiang has learned from experience of other countries, and striven to achieve real results in line with the actual conditions of the autonomous region. In countering terrorism and extremism, Xinjiang draws on the experience of other countries, and provides people influenced by terrorist and religious extremist teachings with education in standard spoken and written Chinese, an understanding of the law, and training in vocational skills. These efforts have eradicated extremist thoughts, delivered widely recognized results, helped to safeguard social stability in the region, and protected the environment for the healthy development of religions.
Second, the government puts prevention first while taking firm action on terrorism and extremism. In its fight against terrorism and extremism, Xinjiang has consistently adopted the policy of addressing both the symptoms and root causes. On the one hand, Xinjiang strikes hard at terrorist and extremist forces, and on the other hand, it gives prevention a high priority, sparing no effort to educate and rehabilitate the large number of people who have committed only minor offences under the influence of terrorism and religious extremism. Xinjiang adopts an approach of rehabilitation rather than punishment and compassion rather than rejection to free them of religious extremist thinking. It teaches them laws and standard spoken and written Chinese, so that they can become educated individuals with vocational skills – useful individuals and individuals of value to society.
Third, the government promotes the rule of law. It is an essential requirement of developing socialism with Chinese characteristics to build a socialist country governed by the rule of law. In the process of promoting vocational education and training and eliminating the environment for breeding terrorism and religious extremism, Xinjiang promotes the rule of law, upholds the authority of the Constitution and laws, adopts appropriate legal thinking and measures to deal with problems, and confines all its efforts within the legal framework. The deradicalization work of the vocational education and training centers is always based on facts and laws, without targeting any specific region, ethnic group or religion.
Fourth, the government respects and protects human rights. The vocational education and training efforts in Xinjiang protect people’s basic human rights, and at the same time rehabilitate as far as possible those who have committed unlawful or criminal offences under the influence of religious extremist teachings. The centers place the trainees first, manage them in line with regulations like schools, provide people-centered services, strictly prohibit any form of humiliation or mistreatment, and guarantee their personal freedom. In the centers, the trainees receive high-quality education and training in diverse skills, and their right to education is fully safeguarded.
Fifth, the government must take on the responsibility and achieve tangible results. It is the bounden duty of a responsible government to protect its people’s lives, health, property, and other basic rights, and provide a safe, stable and harmonious living environment. Governments at all levels in Xinjiang, bearing their responsibility to the people in mind, are engaged in a host of patient, careful and extremely hard efforts to educate and rehabilitate victims of terrorist and religious extremist teachings. Success in vocational education and training promotes justice, safeguards people’s dignity and presents a positive image of government.
Indeed, Xinjiang deserves praise for its measures in the fight against terrorism and extremism -- undoubtedly part of the global struggle against such common enemies of humanity. These programs have delivered worthwhile results. No terrorist incident has occurred in Xinjiang for nearly three years since the education and training program started. Local people have gained a strong sense of security and happiness. The region has attracted a soaring number of tourists, with nearly 76 million in the first half of 2019, up 46 percent year on year. Xinjiang's education and training ensures its own social stability and is conducive to regional security and stability. The programs have contributed experience to international actions against terrorism and extremism.
Yet, some people, for reasons of ideological prejudice or other ulterior motives, are doing all they can to smear the reputation of Xinjiang’s vocational education and training centers. Their censure of Xinjiang’s huge effort in countering terrorism and extremism will be firmly rejected by the Xinjiang people. A number of countries, organizations and individuals apply double standards in their approach to terrorism and extremism, which will in effect shield and incite terrorism and extremism. Such acts go against international morality and human conscience, and are scorned by all just people of goodwill.
Xinjiang still has much to do in the fight against terrorism and extremism, and improvements can be made in this regard. In the context of local conditions, and complying with the spirit of documents such as the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and the UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, Xinjiang will put prevention first while taking resolute action against terrorism and extremism. We will make unremitting efforts to improve vocational education and training, protect the people’s basic rights, and ensure long-term social stability and security in Xinjiang.