West, Japan rebuke China at UN for detention of Uighurs

Elias Hubbard
July 11, 2019

China has attacked a statement by 22 Western countries at the United Nations urging it to cease holding member of its Muslim population in detention centers.

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

In the letter to the high commissioner for human rights, 22 ambassadors - including those from the UK, Germany and Japan - raised concerns about "large-scale places of detention, as well as widespread surveillance and restrictions, particularly targeting Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang". The joint letter was sent on behalf of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and 15 EU States, including Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

Activists had sought a formal resolution at the Council, but some analysts say the move was the only available option to spotlight the Uighur plight at the forum. This was due to governments' fears of a potential political and economic backlash from China, diplomats said.

China's representative said global 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 idea of a resolution was never on the cards".

Another envoy said: "It's a formal step because it will be published as an official document of the Council ... It is a signal".

Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) on July 5 issued a statement urging the USA government to "urgently address what is one of the world's worst human rights situations".

Geng warned that Hunt, who is hoping to become prime minister, should not "use China" as a way to campaign for votes and noted Wang had outlined China's "tremendous progress" in human rights, ethnic minority, and religious policies during his meeting with Caputova. "We have already lodged stern representations with the relevant countries", spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing in Beijing.

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.

"We urge these countries to respect the facts, discard prejudice, abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and stop politicising human rights issues and intervening in China's internal affairs with the Xinjiang issue", he said.

The Chinese government has for decades tried to suppress pro-independence movements among Xinjiang's Muslim community, spurred largely by frustration over the influx of migrants from China's Han majority.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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