China’s ambassador to Canada accused the media in the west of spreading “fake news” by covering China’s mass internment of minorities.

At a conference on Wednesday, Ambassador Cong Peiwu suggested western media were purposefully misleading the public about the treatment of minorities under the communist regime.

“Some of the western media can be misleading, you know,” he said. “So be careful. A lot of fake news.”

The statement came at the Conference of Defence Associations Institute in Ottawa when Cong was questioned about internment camps in the remote Xinjiang region.

Cong claimed the facilities are actually “vocational training centres” – a claim that evoked laughter from the audience of security experts.

Since 2017, China has interned between one and two million people in the Xinjiang region, the largest mass internment anywhere since the Second World War. The majority of the imprisoned are from the Muslim Uyghur minority.

While the Chinese government claims the internments are for counterterrorism reasons, international watchdogs and reporters have found that indoctrination and torture are tactics commonly used in these camps.

A report last week by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found that interned Uyghurs are also being used as forced labour in factories across China, with many popular technology brands like Huawei and Apple being implicated.

Cong denied the findings of this report.

“With the help of the local governments, they have found good jobs, decent jobs. So that is good for the stability in the region,” he said.

At the same conference, Cong praised the Canadian government for not restricting flights from China due to coronavirus concerns.

Despite this and other coordination on fighting the spread of coronavirus, Cong says this alone will not fix Canada-China relations.

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