French professor praises China’s de-radicalization measures in Xinjiang

By Xie Wenting and Bai Yunyi in Urumqi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/9/10 19:08:40

The director of Xinjiang Islamic Institute in Urumqi, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, briefs foreign experts on the general situation of the institute on September 4. Photo: Xie Wenting/GT

Christian Mestre closely examined every site he visited in Xinjiang, listening carefully to the guide's explanations so that he could catch every piece of useful information about counter-terrorism measures. 

It was the first time that Mestre, a professor at the University of Strasbourg in France, visited Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. However, he was not in Xinjiang as a tourist, but to participate in the International Seminar on Counter-terrorism, De-radicalization and Human Rights Protection with experts from other countries. 

Mestre told the Global Times that the threat of terrorism is "very serious" in his own country and an extremely urgent issue. After spending several days in Xinjiang to visit the counter-terrorism exhibition, Xinjiang Islamic Institute in Urumqi and a vocational education and training center in Kashi, Southern Xinjiang, Mestre said he hoped some methods taken by China in counter-terrorism and de-radicalization can be adopted by France and other European countries haunted by terrorism.

"We have many issues concerning the treatment of terrorism and the fight against terrorists. And I think there are some answers given by the Xinjiang government for education and avoiding the strengthening of terrorism," he told the Global Times. "I hope that France and other European countries [haunted by terrorism] could take the answers given by Xinjiang."  

He also called for cooperation between European countries and China to stop terrorism. 

Journey of discovery 

According to Mestre, his trip to Xinjiang was more like a "discovery." After visiting Xinjiang Islamic Institute where Imams are trained, he was full of high praise. 

"There is a large debate in France concerning the [training] formation of Imams. You gave a very good answer concerning it because its formation is organized by the state and with some courses concerning the law, the Constitution and many things. And I think it's a very good example and I hope that in France we could take the pattern of your model of formation," he told the Global Times.

"It's a very fine and very clever answer concerning all the matters of religious extremism," he added.  

After visiting the Imam's school in Urumqi, Mestre later visited the vocational education and training center in Kashi, where he got a chance to have close interactions with the trainees there. 

"It's better to give education and the training for all people who are near terrorism and are victims of terrorism and help them get out from this very dreadful situation," he said, sharing his thoughts on the vocational education and training center.

According to Mestre, the measures used to bring these people back into society are very good and can serve as "a source of inspiration" for France or other European countries. "I think [this is] the right and good solution for this kind of religious extremism and terrorism," he noted. 

Mestre also pays close attention to the issue of internet terrorism, as many young people watch a great deal of online videos. 

In the Kashi center, many young people confessed that they had been misguided by videos spreading religious extremism and terrorism. In the center, they are taught to avoid these poisonous videos, which Mestre believed is both important and useful. 

Effective methods

Mestre noted to the Global Times that French people who are suffering from terrorism want effective measures. "They want to be protected and to have the feeling that they are protected."

"I think we have need for security," he said, dismissing the accusation that China's methods violate human rights. 

"I think in this kind of period, it's more important to ensure the protection of all citizens than to defend individual freedom," he stressed.

According to Mestre, there is a balance being maintained, as these people are not in jail, but being put through compulsory training. "In France, we have no such education program," he said, adding that France should learn from this model. 

"The education for all people including young people and elderly people is a very good thing," he said. 

Mestre told the Global Times that it's essential for a country to protect its people when there is a terrorist problem. 

"You could take some measures, some rules for ensuring this protection. And for that, I think it's necessary to restrict in a short period, not definitively, some freedom, not all the freedom," he said.

In France, he said some special rules and laws are put in place when an emergency situation arises. "But I think it is not sufficient. I think it's necessary to increase some control against part of the population, because we know that some part of the population is very receptive to some kind of ideas and are very interested by the war [in the Middle East]. And they are very interested in the messages of jihad. I think for these people, some measures are necessary."

He said that France is generally very reluctant to propose these kinds of restrictive measures. 

Mestre hoped that more French politicians can find out and understand how China fights against terrorism and religious extremism in Xinjiang. 

Mestre summarized at the seminar that the fight against terrorism and religious extremism is focused on six main targets: combating the financing of terrorism by tracking the suspicious movements of funds; fighting terrorist propaganda, particularly on the internet; the implementation of de-radicalization programs in certain areas like prisons; the implementation of de-radicalization and rehabilitation programs; the creation of general structures for training police, and finally the implementation of State education programs to prevent radicalization, mainly by rallying young people to share the State's values and society's principles.

"On all of them, the State put in force many actions and ran several programs, so we had to acknowledge the Chinese policy to be one of the most developed and efficient, particularly in preventative actions," he said.
Newspaper headline: Helping through education

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