As many as 51 countries have issued a joint statement expressing deep concern over grave human rights violations by China against Uyghur Muslims in the western Xinjiang region. More than a million Uyghurs are believed to be detained in internment camps in Xinjiang.
Several human rights groups have slammed China over the years for the illegal confinement, rising arrests and lengthy prison sentences in the region. Former detainees and others familiar with conditions at detention centers have described brutal torture and inhumane treatment with instances of rape and other sexual violence. China has always denied the claims.
Delivering a joint statement from 51 countries, including the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Israel and Japan, UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations James Kariuki said, “Members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang continue to suffer serious violations of their human rights by the authorities of the People’s Republic of China.”
Kariuki cited the assessment by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and said that it found evidence of “large-scale” arbitrary detention and systematic use of invasive surveillance on the basis of religion.
He also highlighted “severe and undue restrictions” to legitimate cultural and religious practices, identity and expression as well as torture, ill-treatment and sexual violence, including forced abortions, sterilisations and enforced disappearances.
“Over a year has passed since that assessment was released and yet China has not engaged in any constructive discussion of these findings. Last month, at the 54th Session of the Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, called on China to follow the recommendations of the assessment and take strong remedial action. So far, we have not seen evidence of China taking any such action,” said the UK deputy ambassador.
The joint statement urged China to end violations of human rights against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang and engage constructively with the OHCHR in order to fully implement their recommendations.
Last year, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet visited Xinjiang after a long diplomatic tussle with Beijing and said serious human rights violations have been committed in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in the context of the Chinese government’s application of counter-terrorism and counter-extremism strategies.
“The implementation of these strategies, and associated policies in XUAR has led to interlocking patterns of severe and undue restrictions on a wide range of human rights,” said the OHCHR report published last year.
According to Radio Free Asia, the joint statement was welcomed by the World Uyghur Congress and noted that a few African and South American countries have signed this year’s statement condemning China’s atrocities against Uyghurs.
“Despite China’s efforts to spread disinformation to cover up it genocide against Uyghurs by increasing tourism, and inviting friendly diplomats and journalists to the region, the fact that there are more countries signed on to this joint statement this time proves the complete failure of China’s disinformation campaign,” he said.
Earlier this month, China was re-elected to the 47-member UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) while Russia’s bid was rejected, despite Beijing’s poor record for protecting human rights.