The Malaysian government has selected the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC) in Kuala Lumpur to study and verify reports on the alleged repression of the Uighur community in Xinjiang, China, Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said Monday, December 30.
“Malaysia will neither blindly support any reports provided by the Chinese government nor openly criticise China,” the English daily New Straits Times quoted Saifuddin as telling reporters. “We want to ensure the truth behind each and every report that we receive about the incidents there.”
A foreign ministry official who sought anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media told Benar News, that the minister made the statement during a public event in Pahang, east of Kuala Lumpur.
ISTAC is housed at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), a campus established in the 1980s in Selangor state with the goal of becoming a leading international research centre in the field of Islamic thought, culture and civilization, according to the university’s website.
Malaysia, along with several other Muslim-majority countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Bangladesh and Pakistan, were co-sponsors of the university when it was founded.
Saifuddin also recalled that during his meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on September 12, he promised that Malaysia “will adopt a civilized approach” about the controversy around the plight of the Uighurs, which includes reports that Beijing began locking up 1.8 million Uighurs and other Muslims at internment camps in Xinjiang.
“We need to verify this, including the Uighur separatist movements at the Xinjiang province and whether there were elements of terrorism in the issue,” the minister said, according to the New Straits Times.
China began incarcerating Uighurs in a vast network of internment camps in April 2017 over accusations that members of the minority Muslim group harboured “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas.
Saifuddin’s comments came after China’s ambassador, BaiTian, denounced pro-Uyghur protests that took place outside the Chinese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday and Friday. Hundreds of demonstrators waved banners and signs urging China to “stop genocide of ethnic Uighurs.”
“We will never accept irresponsible, utterly groundless accusations based on falsehoods,” the Chinese envoy said Sunday.
He made the statement days after Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad appeared to have taken a tougher stance, as he vowed not to extradite Uighurs who seek refuge in his country.
Although Beijing initially denied the existence of internment camps, China has tried to change the discussion, describing the facilities as “boarding schools” that provide vocational training for Uighurs, discourage radicalization and help protect the country from terrorism.
“If Uighurs are fleeing to Malaysia to seek asylum, Malaysia will not extradite them even if there is an application from China,” Mahathir said. “They are allowed to go to the third country because they have valid fears over their safety.” (Source: RFA)