Published: Sat, July 13, 2019

OHCHR Chief to Investigate Violations Against Uighur Muslims in China

OHCHR Chief to Investigate Violations Against Uighur Muslims in China

More than 20 countries have written to top United Nations human rights officials condemning China's treatment of Uighur and other minorities in the western Xinjiang region, in a letter released Wednesday.

Rights groups say that in practice the centers are internment camps in which as many as 1 million minority Muslims have been placed in the past few years.

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 unprecedented letter also calls on China to allow experts, including the High Commissioner for Human Rights, "meaningful access" to the region.

However, the letter fell short of activists demands for a formal statement to be read out at the council, or a resolution submitted for a vote. This was due to governments' fears of a potential political and economic backlash from China, diplomats said.

China said on Thursday its treatment of ethnic Muslims in "happy" and "secure" Xinjiang region was a model for other nations to follow despite a bombardment of Western criticism.

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

Last month, China's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva said he hoped Bachelet would take up an invitation to visit.

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

Beijing denies the accusations, saying the camps are vocational and training facilities aimed at combating religious extremism, terrorism, and separatism.

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

"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", Fisher concluded.

"It is a public politicisation of human rights issues and wantonly interferes in China's internal affairs", he added.

"Those allegations by a small group of Western countries and NGOs can not do away with the tremendous achievements that were made against terrorism and radicalisation and can not change the fact that Xinjiang people are leading a happy life", he said.

In addition, an annual federal bill to allocate intelligence funding, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, has now included language related to Xinjiang.

In March, the U.S. Department of State reported that China "significantly intensified" its crackdown on Muslims past year.

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