Photo taken on October 29, 2020 shows the press conference.
On October 29, 2020, the Information Office of the People's Government of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region held the 15th press conference on Xinjiang related issues. The press conference invited the graduated trainees Nurmangul Obulqasim, Mettursun Memet, Tusunisa Ali, Alim Memetmin and Kasenmjan Helil of the Hotan vocational education and training center, Almira Ablat and Mirzat Talat of the Aksu vocational education and training center, Shatar Zunon of the Turpan vocational education and training center, to give a briefing and answer questions from the press.
Host of press conference: Deputy Head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Xinjiang Committee Xu Guixiang
Xu Guixiang: Good afternoon, our friends from the media. Welcome to the press conference on Xinjiang related issues held by the Information Office of the People's Government of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The press conference invited the graduated trainees Nurmangul Obulqasim, Mettursun Memet, Tusunisa Ali, Alim Memetmin and Kasenmjan Helil of the Hotan vocational education and training center, Almira Ablat and Mirzat Talat of the Aksu vocational education and training center, Shatar Zunon of the Turpan vocational education and training center, to give a briefing and answer questions from the press.
Now, please raise your hands to ask questions.
Xinhua News Agency: I would like to ask the graduated trainees to share their views on the vocational education and training centers and tell us if they were “tortured”? Some overseas media claim that “the trainees were performed kidney and liver removal operations, and female trainees were forced to be sterilized and to shave their hair”, so have any of you been performed such surgical removal operations? Are these claims true?
Xu Guixiang: These two questions go to Nurmangul Obulqasim.
Nurmangul Obulqasim: My name is Nurmangul Obulqasim, a graduate from the Vocational Education and Training Center of Hotan county, and I am now the director for women's affairs of Yapchaliq village, Langru town. As a graduated trainee, I think I am the most qualified to speak on what the center was like. When I first entered the center, I saw clean buildings, beautiful gardens and lawns, bright and spacious classrooms with each being equipped with multimedia teaching facilities, which greatly facilitated our study in class. The dormitories were also well equipped with TV, electric fans and bathrooms.
At the center, we had six classes per day from Monday to Friday with courses on the country’s common language, laws, vocational skills and deradicalization. We could contact with our families and enjoy weekends as well as national legal holidays. When we went home at weekend, we were free to attend lawful religious activities. Our after-class life was also very rich and colorful. We had library, recreational room and interest-oriented classes, in which we were taught to dance and sing. We often organized sport and cultural activities like basketball, volleyball games and artistic performances. There was a clinic at the center with doctors on duty 24 hours a day, so whenever we had a headache, cold or any other ailment, we could go to see a doctor. We took regular health checks at the center. Our customs and habits were fully respected there, and the school canteen provided us with various and nutritious halal food for free every day. There had never been any maltreatment or physical punishment at the center, let alone brutal torture. The teachers cared for us like our own families, and took very good care of us when we were ill. They also prepared delicious cakes and sent us best wishes on our birthdays.
As for the claim of some western media that “the trainees were performed kidney and liver removal operations, and female trainees were forced to be sterilized and to shave their hair”, these are all rumors and slanders. I have never had my kidney or liver removed and I am very healthy now. Those media have never been to any vocational education and training center, nor have they talked to us face to face. I don’t know how come they could make up such lies. That is so absurd.
To be honest, I’ve never been to any other school better than the vocational education and training center. I learnt a lot during that time and received cordial care from my teachers there. I don’t know what would happen if I hadn’t attended the center. It is the center that saved me from the edge of a cliff through educating and rehabilitating me, and thus saving my family.
Xu Guixiang: Thank you for your answer, Nurmangul Obulqasim. Please go ahead to raise questions, media friends.
Photo taken on October 29, 2020 shows the press conference.
Xinjiang Radio and Television Station: It is known that the trainees at the centers were people who had committed minor unlawful or criminal offenses under the influence of religious extremism. Is there any trainee who can tell us about how they got influenced by religious extremism? And what is their view on religious extremism now?
Xu Guixiang: These two questions go to Mettursun Memet.
Mettursun Memet: My name is Mettursun Memet, a graduated trainee from Yutian county. Back then, I was a fruits vendor, trading in various town bazaars and led a happy family until religious extremist thoughts changed everything.
At that time, I got acquainted with some people who gave me a book called “What Is Heaven? What Is Hell?” to read and kept telling me “not to do business with ethnic Han people, because they are not Muslims”, that “we Muslims must behave according to sharia and Islamic doctrines, should not obey national laws”, that “real Muslims must be sharply demarcated from non-Muslims” because “non-Muslims are kafirs, and we can’t use anything they produce; only by expelling them through jihad can we become real Muslims and go to heaven to enjoy good life there, otherwise, we will go to hell”, “Women should wear burqa, cover themselves, and never show their face in public".
Later I believed what they said and lived a life by the “standards” that they preached, just like being obsessed. I refused to talk with Han people, rejected any dealings with them, and hated to see Han customers coming into my shop. As a result, my business got worse and worse, and I became very hot-tempered. What I did had also influenced people around me. I was not only obsessed with religious extremist teachings all day long, but also kept telling my relatives those extremist ideas. I forced my wife to wear burqa and forbade her from listening to music, singing and dancing. My wife could not bear all this, so she often quarreled with me, we were almost going to divorce. And I thought the meals my mum cooked were not for Muslim, because she didn’t make five prayers a day. And I haven’t eaten what she made or visited her for almost a year. My relatives and friends were afraid of my behaviors.
At the vocational education and training center, I learnt laws and regulations, national religious policy and religious knowledge. Gradually, I came to know what true Islam is and recognized the ugly faces of extremists. Islam teaches its believers friendship, peace and justice, while those religious extremists were talking nonsense and asked us to deem non-Muslims as our enemies and even made up lies that “one can enter heaven if he launches jihad against kafirs”. Now I have realized that I had been used by the extremists as cannon fodder, that their unspeakable real purpose was to create conflict and hatred between us and other ethnic groups. If I hadn’t been to the center, I might have been poisoned more deeply and become a terrorist. Looking back now, I feel scared about the possible consequence and regretful for my ignorance.
Now I can clearly see through extremism. My wife and I have made it up. We are much closer and love each other more than before. My parents have also forgiven me. I have started a new life. At the center, I learnt the country’s common language and mobile phone repair skills, with which I opened a mobile phone repair shop. At the beginning, I did not have the money to start my own business, but our community workers helped me out after they got to know my business plan. I got a subsidized loan of 100,000 yuan with a guarantor, thus my problem was solved. Now I have a phone repair shop in the high street in the county seat. I can make more than 10,000 yuan a month and my life is getting better and better.
Xu Guixiang: Thank you for your answer, Mettursun Memet. Please go ahead to raise questions, media friends.
China Daily: According to the white paper Vocational Education and Trainning in Xinjiang, the centers provided courses in standard spoken and written Chinese, understanding of the law, vocational skills and deradicalization. Could any trainee share with us what he or she has learnt from those courses? And how have they benefited from the knowledge and skills acquired from the courses?
Xu Guixiang: These two questions go to Almira Ablat.
Almira Ablat: My name is Almira Ablat. I live in Wensu County, Aksu Prefecture. I am a graduate from a vocational education and training center. I got to know some people with extremist thoughts in 2016. From then on, we often got together, watched and listened to terrorist and extremist videos, and even showed them to other people. Influenced by religious extremist teachings, I no longer sang or danced like I used to do, and daydreamed about “killing kafirs and becoming a jihadist martyr so that I can go to heaven”. I became more and more unsocial and eccentric with increasingly extreme behaviors, as if I was changed to another person.
Teachers at the center were very conscientious and responsible. They taught us to write and read Chinese one character after another. My Chinese language proficiency improved a lot with their help. Since I was quick in learning, our teacher asked me to be the class commissary in charge of studies to assist him in teaching management. He also encouraged me to help with my classmates’ studies. Thanks to my Chinese language proficiency and teaching management experience, I got a job at an education and training institution and signed labor contract with the employer after graduating from the center. Now I earn about 3,500 yuan per month from the job.
I used to know nothing about laws and I couldn’t distinguish whether the things that religious extremists said were right or wrong. At the center, I learnt laws and regulations such as the Chinese Constitution, Criminal Law, Marriage Law, Law on the Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests, Counter-terrorism Law, and Regulations of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Religious Affairs, etc.. Now I know what is legal and what is illegal, and what I can do and cannot do. What the extremists wanted us to do was illegal, and if I haven’t learnt the laws and regulations, I might have committed a crime.
We had a colorful life in our spare time. There were also many extra-curricular classes, such as calligraphy, literature and art, sports and chess, which we could choose to attend according to our own interests. I chose the course of literature and art, and gradually I became more outgoing and opened my heart to others. I also learnt the skills of hairdressing and beauty services. Now I always get dressed up and then go to work. And my good mood makes my students happy too. My parents are happy about my change, and they said that their happy daughter is back.
I want to tell everyone that it was the vocational education and training center that helped me realize the dream of being a teacher. I felt very proud when children called me teacher. Now I have a stable income and I live with dignity. I am very happy and confident about my future. I will tell the story to my students, directing them onto the right path to a healthy and happy life.
Xu Guixiang: Thank you for your answer,Almira Ablat. Please go ahead to raise questions, media friends.
Photo taken on October 29, 2020 shows the press conference.
CGTN: According to some foreign media, trainees have no personal freedom, and they are deprived of the rights to religion, culture, and using their own language. Could any trainee share his or her opinion on this?
Xu Guixiang: These two questions go to Mirzat Talat.
Mirzat Talat: My name is Mirzat Talat. I am a graduate from Aksu Vocational Education and Training Center. In my opinion, the center is like a boarding school, and the human-based management made us feel the warmth of home. The center had never restricted trainees’ personal freedom. We could go home at weekends and holidays to get together with our family. In school days, we could also contact our family members by telephone. And we could ask for leave to attend personal affairs at any time.
We learned standard spoken and written Chinese at the center and had the freedom to use our own languages. There were books in Uygur language at the center. And the center provided courses of music, dancing and handcrafts. We could sing, dance and watch TV and movies as we like. Some of my classmates who attended singing and dancing activities at the center became skilled performers, and got jobs at travel agencies and art troupes. Some of them attended training sessions on traditional Uygur handicrafts like musical instrument manufacturing, ethnic painting, embroidery and woodcarving. After graduation, they set up their own studios or workshops and lived a happy life.
Our freedom of religious belief was fully protected according to the law at the center. Our teacher told us that, the center was a school, so religious activities were not allowed there. But at weekends and during holidays, we could decide on our own whether to pray or listen to Imam explaining Koran at the mosque. No one had ever interfered in this. I want to take this opportunity to tell everyone that, those who said that our rights to religion, culture and using our own languages were deprived are telling a bare faced lie. I sincerely invite friends from all around the world to visit Xinjiang, talk to us and get to know the real situation.
Xu Guixiang: Thank you for your answer,Mirzat Talat. Please go ahead to raise questions, media friends.
China News Service: According to some foreign media, the vocational education and training centers used vocational training as a cover to force the trainees to work and make products. Could you please let the trainees talk about it? Did such things happen in their training centers?
Xu Guixiang: These two questions go to Tusunisa Ali.
Tusunisa Ali: I am Tusunisa Ali, and I am a graduate of Hotan County Vocational Education and Training Center. The center had never imposed forced labor on us. All the training courses were for us to acquire vocational ability, so that we could find jobs successfully and live better lives.
The courses included livestock breeding, beauty treatment and hairdressing, computer operation, tailoring, business marketing, costume designing, and hotel management. The trainees selected courses according to their interests. I love beauty and wearing pretty clothes. I wanted to dress up myself so I chose the tailoring course, hoping to make pretty clothes for myself and earn money with the tailoring skills to support my family and take better care of my mom.
The tailoring class combined theoretical teaching and hands-on training. Only after we had finished the theory studies of straight lines, pressure lines, keyholes, button attaching, knot tying, and binding-off did we start the practical operation. At first, I was very clumsy at the hands-on training class. But the teachers patiently taught us by doing, and we practiced repeatedly until we got it. Later, I could make good straight lines, circle lines and square lines, and solve different problems in the sewing process. I heard that some people described our hands-on training as forced labor. It is sheer nonsense. If we only learned about the theories without practical training, we could never learn the tailoring skills or make suitable clothes. Besides, we used off-cuts of clothing to practice, how could we make finished products? We practiced for our future better lives, how come it was called forced labor?
After I graduated, I worked at a clothing company with the help of the labor market. I signed a labor contract with the company. With my proficient tailoring skills, now I am the manager of a workshop. I can earn 4,000 yuan a month, which has improved my family’s living conditions and enabled us to live a happy life.
Xu Guixiang: Thank you for your answer,Tusunisa Ali. Please go ahead to raise questions, media friends.
Xinjiang Station of China National Radio of China Media Group: It is known that many graduates of the vocational education and training centers found stable jobs. Could I ask the graduates to talk about their present work and life?
Xu Guixiang: These two questions go to Shatar Zunon.
Shatar Zunon: My name is Shatar Zunon, I am a graduate of Gaochang District, Turpan City Vocational Education and Training Center. Influenced by religious extremists, I stopped going to school when I was still in junior middle school and later hung out with them every day. I watched videos of violent terrorism and started to feel hostility toward kafirs. I thought the kafirs were unclean and non-Muslim, so I refused to sell things to them. My business got worse and worse, and my family began to have financial difficulties. After I went to the vocational education and training center, I realized the harm of religious extremism, and how stupid I was in the past.
I chose the cooking course at the training center according to my own interest. I wanted to open a restaurant after graduation. But I didn’t have the money to start with. I tried to tell my thoughts to the village officials, and they supported me. They helped me to get loans, choose the place and decorate the restaurant. Very soon, my restaurant opened. I was good at cooking, so more and more people came to my restaurant. They also helped promote my restaurant among their friends, and my business got better and better. This year, due to the influence of the COVID-19, less people came to my restaurant. So the village officials tried hard to help me find a way out. They told me that I could sell take-out food by allowing the customers to order online and I sending the ordered food to them. I also set up WeChat groups and send food to the neighboring residents. These measures guaranteed my stable income even during the epidemic outbreak.
At present, I have not only paid off all the loans and redecorated my house, but also bought new furniture and home appliances, such as sofa, air conditioner and TV set. Now we live the same comfortable life as the urban residents.
Turpan is a famous tourist city. Lots of tourists from home and abroad come here. I plan to open a family restaurant near a tourist scenic spot. I will employ a few people and lead them to make the business prosper, and to let more tourists from home and abroad taste authentic Xinjiang food. I believe through my hard work, my business will get better day by day, and my life will get better day by day.
Xu Guixiang: Thank you for your answer,Shatar Zunon. Please go ahead to raise questions, media friends.
Xinjang Daily: According to a foreign media outlet, graduates of the vocational education and training centers were forced to work under monitoring against their will with very little wages. Can I ask a graduate to talk about what the reality is like?
Xu Guixiang: These two questions go to Alim Memetmin.
Alim Memetmin: My name is Alim Memetmin, a graduate of the Vocational Education and Training Center of Pishan County. As I myself have attended the training and witnessed everything, I am very astonished and furious at the accusation that “graduates of vocational education and training centers were forced to work under monitoring against their will with very little wages”. We know the best about what our work, life and wages are like. Nobody has ever forced us to do anything. We are all using the skills that we learned at the centers to make our life better. If there is someone who is monitoring, I believe that’s those ill-intentioned guys who keep making up lies and slandering Xinjiang every day. They are just so bad.
After graduation, like many of my classmates, I found a suitable job with the vocational skill I learned. After passing the job interview, I signed a three-year contract with a rabbitry thanks to the breeding technology that I learned at the vocational education and training center, and I joined the social security program. I used to farm at home and do some odd jobs, and earned very little. Now I make 3,000 yuan per month, that is nearly 40,000 per year, which I had never expected before. We work five days a week, eight hours a day and take days off at weekends and in holidays. We can also ask for leave at any time if necessary. My colleagues are very helpful, and we get along with each other very well, just like a family. After work, I often go shopping and dining and have fun with my family.
Now I am very optimistic about life. I plan to open a breeding farm of my own and earn more money, so as to live an even better life.
Xu Guixiang: Thank you for your answer,Alim Memetmin. Please go ahead to raise questions, media friends.
Tianshannet: I would like to invite the trainees to talk about their views aobut the training. Have you been discriminated against by your relatives, neighbors, and friends for participating in the training? Have your personal rights and interests been affected? What do you think of the teaching and training center?
Xu Guixiang: These two questions go to Kasenmjan Helil.
Kasenmjan Helil: My name is Kasenmjan Helil. I once opened a software technology Co., Ltd. in Hotan city. I was once influenced by extreme thoughts. In my mind, we Muslims can not contact anything related to "Kafir", (namely, non-Muslims or heretic. ）If we contact "Kafir", we will go to hell to suffer and can't go to heaven to enjoy happiness. gradually, I felt that my friends around me were doing nothing right and that what they were doing was not in line with the Muslim behavior. So I was getting more and more irritable and my behaviour was becoming increasingly extreme, frequently abusing and reviling the friends related to "Kafir". Consequently, my friends began to stay away from me and did not want to contact me. Then I began to reflect on myself and think about whether there is something wrong with me. My parents were very distressed to see that I was reduced to such a personality and recommended the vocational skills training center to me, hoping that I could attend the training. After careful consideration, I decided to go to the center for training.
The teaching and training center is a very good school providing free food, accommodation, and other daily necessities. The school has KTV and Internet cafes. It also provides courses for us to learn the national language, law, and some professional skills,helping us to remove extreme thoughts. I can go home once a week, and this gives me a feeling that I have been brought back to my college life. Every time I return home on holiday, I will tell my family that the teachers have taught us a lot about law and policy, helping me to realize my previous wrong behavior and how ridiculous my previous thoughts and behaviors used to be. I will work hard at law study at school and try to acquire more knowledge about law by the end of the training, so that I will not have wrong ideas and my family will not worry about me again.
During the training period, I was not discriminated against at all. My teachers and classmates were very concerned about my study and life and often helped me. After returning home, my family and neighbors were very happy about my changes. In particular, with the aid of the government, my family has been relived of the financial difficulties. During my father’s medical treatment at hospital, the total medical expense amounts to 220,000 yuan and the government reimbursed 160, 000 yuan for us. My family only paid 60, 000 yuan, which greatly lightened our burden. After I came back from the training, the national language competence and enterprise management skills I learned in the training center have greatly helped my company. When I told the government that I wanted to expand my company, the government suggested that I apply for a loan from the bank. At present, the government is helping me with the 300,000 yuan loan I applied for. Now my family have more and more confidence in me, and I have also found a Miss Right I love. I will get married soon. This is the right life I want. I think that if I had not studied in the teaching and training center, maybe I would have been on the way to the crime and would not have my current life.
Xu Guixiang: Thank you for your answer,Kasenmjan Helil. Today's press conference concludes now. Thanks all the invitees and reporters.