Building a Better Life: Former Xinjiang trainees share their training center experiences

The government of the Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region has held a press conference in response to recent claims of China's policy of ethnic cleansing in the region. Former trainees from Xinjiang's training centers also attended the event to share their stories.

Sewing, painting, cooking.

These are some of the classes taught at the training centers in China's northwest. The goal is to help the students acquire new skills to build a better life.

SHIRALI AMARJAN Former Trainee "In the past, because I was swayed by religious extremism, I saw the Han people as 'pagans', and felt we couldn't associate with them. Muslims were encouraged to not obey national laws or serve as state officials. I even regarded my wife as a heretic, and often abused her simply because she worked in a government position."

After completing his training, Amarjan started an interior design and decoration company. As the old proverb goes, it's better to teach a man to fish, than simply give him a fish.

SHIRALI AMARJAN Former Trainee "At the training center, I not only studied law, and standard spoken and written Chinese, but also acquired a knowledge of computer science, which was my favorite subject. Other skills taught included welding and automotive maintenance, and all my classmates chose to focus on areas aligned with their interests. Another positive point was the courses were all free of charge."

Overseas voices, particularly in the West, have claimed these training centers are in fact detention centers. But this claim, as well as the idea that China is committing ethnic cleansing in Xinjiang, has been rejected by officials.

ELIJAN ANAYIT Spokesperson of Information Office Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region "The growth of Uygur population was two times higher than the the overall Xinjiang population growth rate, which is nearly fourteen percent. It is also higher than that of the population growth rate for ethnic minorities, and significantly higher than that of the Han population."

In the face of the accusations, at least those who have gained new skills in the training centers know they can earn a better living now.