China says Xinjiang 'inseparable' despite attempts to distort history

FILE PHOTO: Chinese paramilitary police in riot gear stand guard across the entrance to a large mosque in the centre of the city of Urumqi in China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region July 9, 2009. REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - The far northwestern region of Xinjiang is an “inseparable” part of China despite efforts by extremists to distort history and facts in a bid to split the country, the Chinese government said in a document published late on Sunday.

The government said in a white paper published by the State Council Information Office it was wrong to suggest members of Xinjiang’s minority Uighur Muslim community were descended from Turks, noting they had become the political tool of pan-Turkic and pan-Islamic groups.

The paper said “hostile forces in and outside China, especially separatists, religious extremists and terrorists, have tried to split China and break it apart by distorting history and facts”.

Beijing has been accused of persecuting Uighurs, with at least a million believed to be detained in what China insists are vocational centers aimed at reducing the spread of Islamist extremism.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo branded China’s treatment of its Uighur minority as the “stain of the century” on Thursday.

The government white paper said Xinjiang has been a part of China since the Han dynasty in the third century and its people and ethnic cultures were formed by a long process of migration and integration.

It also said Islam was not the indigenous or sole belief system of the Uighurs but was imposed by the expansion of the Arab Empire, and that “theocracy” and “religious supremacism” were a betrayal that needed to be opposed.

“Hostile foreign forces and separatist, religious extremist and terrorist forces that have colluded to distort history ... will be cast aside by history and the people,” it said.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Paul Tait