West, Japan rebuke China at UN for detention of Uighurs

Cheryl Sanders
July 13, 2019

More than 20 countries of the UN Human Rights Council have signed a document asking China to end the mistreatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang detention centers.

The letter marks the first major collective worldwide challenge to China's ongoing policy in the far western border region, where experts estimate up to 2 million people have been detained in vast re-education style camps.

China claims that Uighurs are being educated in "vocational training centres" created to combat extremism.

The letter expresses concern "about credible reports of arbitrary detention.as well as widespread surveillance and restrictions, particularly targeting Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang".

China was urged "to allow meaningful access to Xinjiang" for United Nations and independent worldwide observers.


"Governments are increasingly recognizing the suffering of millions of people in Xinjiang, with families torn apart and living in fear, and a Chinese state that believes it can commit mass violations uncontested", Fisher said.

China's representative said worldwide organisations and media who visited Xinjiang had found the situation was different from its portrayal in the West, and that officials from countries behind the letter declined an invitation to visit.

The group furnished a statement, saying, "the letter is important not only for Xinjiang's population, but for people around the world who depend on the UN's leading rights body to hold even the most powerful countries to account".

The letter, addressed to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, disregards the facts, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a press briefing.

Chinese authorities say that extremists in the region have ties to terror groups, but have given little evidence to support that claim. On the contrary, as a Council member, China must uphold the highest standards in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, and fully cooperate with the Council.


In a letter to Bachelet, the ambassadors of these 22 countries asked China to maintain the dignity of its own laws and global obligations and put an end to the erratic imprisonment, allowing the freedom of religion.

It adds: "We call also on China to refrain from the arbitrary detention and restrictions on freedom of movement of Uighurs, and other Muslim and minority communities in Xinjiang". A United Nations spokesperson said at the time that the trip, including "full access to Xinjiang", was under discussion.

FILE PHOTO: People hold signs protesting China's treatment of Uighur people in the Xinjiang region, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, May 8, 2019. But Reuters, citing an anonymous diplomat, has reported that China is preparing a letter.

At the start of the three-week session, which ends on Friday, the Xinjiang vice governor responded to the worldwide condemnation of the state-run detention camps by saying that they were vocational centres which had helped "save" people from "extremist" influences.


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