China detains man on terror charges after setting watch 2 hours behind Beijing time, Human Rights Watch says

Mao Zedong merged China's time zones into one to enhance 'national unity' but some still use unofficial Xinjiang time

Muslims were tortured in 're-education' camp, explains former detainee Omar Bekali

China detained a man of the Uighur ethnic minority because he set his watch to a different time from Beijing, Human Rights Watch has said in a new report.

The unnamed man was arrested for being a terrorist suspect and sent to a detention centre in Xinjiang, western China, the organisation reports, citing a former detainee identified by the pseudonym Nur. The date of the arrest and detention was not clear.

The activist group's source, who was identified by the pseudonym Nur, said: "I know of a guy ... who was taken away for having set his watch to Urumqi time — they say that's what makes him suspicious for terrorism."

China justifies its surveillance and crackdown in Xinjiang as preventing terrorism, and has repeatedly accused militant Uighurs of launching terrorist attacks across the country since at least the mid-1990s.

Former detainees have described both physical and psychological torture in China's political camps. Recent inmates also described being forced to sing patriotic hymns in Chinese, and deprived of food if they did not comply, The New York Times reported.

Urumqi time, or Xinjiang time, is an unofficial time zone set two hours behind Beijing's.

China has one official time zone for the entire country — China Standard Time (CST) — which follows Beijing hours. But because the country is so big, Beijing is actually two hours ahead of the natural daylight schedule in Xinjiang, which is in the west.

Mao Zedong, the founder of modern China, merged all of the country's time zones into one to enhance "national unity."

Setting clocks to "Urumqi time" is therefore seen as a form of resistance against the Chinese Communist Party.

Chinese authorities have used various excuses to justify detaining Uighurs in recent months.

Earlier this week, authorities in Xinjiang arrested four Uighur journalists for being "two-faced," a term used to mean paying lip service to the Chinese Communist Party but privately criticising its policies, Radio Free Asia reported.

The Chinese government has denied that internment camps exist, but have acknowledged a program of "resettlement" for people it refers to as extremists.

Read more:

• Why the Muslim world isn't saying anything about China’s repression of its downtrodden Muslim minority
• What it's like inside the internment camps China uses to oppress its Muslim minority
• Woodward: Trump nearly provoked North Korea into war with a single tweet

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