Chinese state-run media has pointed to the mass shooting Saturday at a synagogue in Pittsburgh as highlighting the need for “anti-extremism education” measures similar to the widely criticized internment camps it operates in the country’s far-west Xinjiang region.
Reacting to the deadly shooting, the Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily, wrote in an editorial Sunday that the U.S. must go beyond legal measures in response to incidents of extremism.
“It is difficult to deter such crimes simply by strengthening legal punishment,” the editorial said. “There is a need for more effective anti-extremism education in some areas, especially for some group of people.”
The editorial said that education would help “improve people’s understanding of different religions and nationalities and to understand the dangers of extremism,” claiming that Beijing “has made efforts in this regard and has achieved results.”
“Despite different conditions, China’s experience in anti-extremism education in Xinjiang provides a solution to the problem for certain countries,” it said.
China has constructed a sprawling system of camps it calls “vocational education and training centers.” The facilities have come under international scrutiny, with rights groups describing them as political re-education camps holding as many as 1 million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.
The centers first began appearing in 2014, the year that Chinese authorities initiated its so-called strike hard campaign against “terrorism” after deadly clashes in the Xinjiang region, but the buildup reportedly only began in earnest early last year.
China had previously denied their existence until a global outcry sparked a public relations counteroffensive by Beijing.
Earlier this month, in an editorial entitled “Governance in Xinjiang stands on righteous side,” the Global Times described the camps as vocational centers “where people who are brainwashed by extreme thoughts and have committed misdemeanors” are taught the Chinese language, laws and job skills.
Beijing has scoffed at the criticism by the U.N. and U.S., saying Sunday that “addressing the challenge of terrorism requires a broader and more open attempt, not a judgment based on a country’s social values.
“Western values used to assess ethnic and religious issues have not contributed to decrease in the number of terrorists,” the editorial went on, claiming that “ethnic and religious divisions have even intensified” in some countries and areas.
China has also returned fire over criticism about its rights record, accusing the United States of “serious infringement on citizens’ civil rights” and “systematic racial discrimination” as well as warning its citizens about traveling to a country with “highly frequent” gun violence.
Saturday’s shooting saw a gunman yelling “All Jews must die” storm the Pittsburgh synagogue and shoot dead 11 worshippers before being arrested. The shooting was one of the deadliest attacks on Jews in U.S. history.
Last year, a gunman stormed into a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and opened fire during a Sunday service, killing 26 people and wounding 20 more. In 2015, a white gunman killed nine black parishioners at a historic black church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.