China on Monday claimed to have arrested nearly 13,000 suspected terrorists since 2014 in Xinjiang, Xinhua reported. In a report titled the “The fight against terrorism and extremism and human rights protection in Xinjiang”, Beijing claimed it destroyed 1,588 violent and terrorist gangs.

The north-western Xinjiang region is home to more than 10 million members of the Uyghur Muslim minority group. Several reports have suggested that the Uyghur community is being discriminated against and about 2 million people have been forced into “political camps for indoctrination” in the region. Beijing has claimed that the reports of torture were false.

“Since 2014, Xinjiang has destroyed 1,588 violent and terrorist gangs, arrested 12,995 terrorists, seized 2,052 explosive devices, punished 30,645 people for 4,858 illegal religious activities, and confiscated 3,45,229 copies of illegal religious materials,” the document released by the State Council Information Office said.

China said its policy “strikes the right balance between compassion and severity”. The document stressed that only a few of those arrested, mainly leaders of terror groups, face strict penalties. It said that those influenced by extremist thinking receive “education and training to teach them the error of their ways”.

Meanwhile, exiled group the World Uyghur Congress refuted the government’s claims. “China is deliberately distorting the truth,” Reuters quoted the organisation’s spokesperson Dilxat Raxit as saying. “Counter-terrorism is a political excuse to suppress the Uighurs. The real aim of the so-called de-radicalisation is to eliminate faith and thoroughly carry out sinification.”

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s final statement had called on China to end illegal detentions of the individuals and conduct impartial investigations into claims of racial, ethnic and ethno-religious profiling. The report criticised China’s “broad definition of terrorism and vague references to extremism and unclear definition of separatism”.