Ambassadors Condemn China's Treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang

Clay Curtis
July 13, 2019

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 Chinese side has invited a number of diplomats, media outlets, experts and scholars from various countries to visit Xinjiang and also sent invitations to the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, he said.

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 on Thursday labelled as "slander" a letter sent to top United Nations officials by more than 20 countries condemning Beijing's treatment of ethnic minorities.

Hundreds of people have been killed there in the past few years in violence between Uighurs, a mostly Muslim people who speak a Turkic language, and ethnic majority Han Chinese, especially in the heavily Uighur south of Xinjiang.

Many appear to have been rounded up as punishment for expressing their faith - praying or wearing a veil - or for having overseas connections to places like Turkey. 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.

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In addition to travel restrictions and a massive surveillance network, China is estimated to have arbitrarily detained up to one million Muslims in prison-like detention centres in Xinjiang, with reports of harsh treatment and poor living conditions inside.

No Western delegation was willing to take the lead and expose itself as a "ringleader" through a joint statement or resolution, diplomats said.

The detentions are created to eradicate their religious and ethnic identities, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing diplomats and letters.

At the internment camps, prisoners face a plethora of human rights abuses, including torture, extrajudicial incarceration, and unlawful killing by the government.

Beijing denies any allegations of torture or political indoctrination, and says the camps are "vocational training centers" created to fight terrorism and combat Islamic extremism. "The joint statement demonstrates that Beijing is wrong to think it can escape worldwide scrutiny for its abuses in Xinjiang, and the pressure will only increase until these appalling abuses end".

Erkin Tuniyaz, Xinjiang's vice governor, told the Council on June 25 that China had contained terrorism and religious extremism in Xinjiang, according to Reuters.

China has yet to issue an official response.

Beijing was also forced Thursday to defend its human rights record from criticism by Slovakia and Britain.

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