Authorities in China’s far-western Xinjiang region used the Chinese government’s 100-day crackdown on criminals and fugitives to target Uyghurs deemed “religious extremists” and “two-faced”, a police officer said, as per media reports.

The anti-crime campaign elsewhere in China focused on crimes like theft, while in Xinjiang officers sought to catch allegedly disloyal Uyghurs, officials said, RFA reported.

Authorities focused on “operations against evil forces” in Hotan, the police officer said.

“‘Evil forces’ refer to people who take criminals under their wings. Here our main targets in eliminating evil forces are those people who took people who preached religion illegally under their wings, protecting them from being prosecuted. The people they took under their wings also include separatists, extremists, and two-faced people,” he told RFA.

“Pickpockets and thieves are in the periphery of our target in this operation. The main targets are the ones I mentioned earlier,” he said.

Xinjiang’s Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities have been subjected to severe human rights abuses, torture, and forced labor, as well as the eradication of their linguistic, cultural, and religious traditions in what the United States and several Western parliaments have called genocide and crimes against humanity, RFA reported.

Chinese authorities have detained up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in internment camps since 2017, according to numerous investigative reports by researchers, think tanks, and foreign media. China has said that the camps were vocational training centers meant to deter religious extremism and terrorism and that they are now closed.