The "sinification" of religion in China's restive northwest region of Xinjiang must be maintained to promote ethnic solidarity and religious harmony, a senior Communist party official said.

China's state-run news agency Xinhua quoted You Quan, the head of the "United Front Labor Department", who oversaw ethnic and religious affairs, this week in Xinjiang, where a large Muslim population lives.

"The leadership of the party on religious work must be maintained," they said, adding that "the infiltration of religious extremism must be protected."

Sinification refers to non-Chinese societies that are forced to adapt to Chinese culture, especially the ethnic Han majority. These include dress code, religion, culture, politics and language.

The Guardian has reported how an estimated one million Muslims are being held in brutal re-education camps in Xinjiang. This week, Xinjiang retroactively legitimized the use of the camps.

The camps are part of China's "strike heavy" campaign calling for extrajudicial arrests, surveillance, political indoctrination or "reeducation," torture and abuse in the name of exterminating extremism.

Heavy arrests and strict surveillance of Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang have provoked international criticism. The United States is considering sanctions against officials and companies associated with allegations of human rights violations. The UN has called on China to close the camps.

China claims that Xinjiang is under threat from militant Islamists and separatists, and has rejected allegations of ill-treatment in an area where deadly civil unrest has occurred between Uyghurs and Han Chinese in recent years.

You are a member of the influential secretariat of the Central Committee of the Party.

Reuters contributed to this report



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