Dozens of countries have expressed concern over alleged abuses in China’s far western Xinjiang and have asked the UN head of rights to publish a long-delayed report on the situation there.
“We continue to be gravely concerned about the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” Paul Bekkers, the Dutch ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, told the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday.
Making a joint statement on behalf of 47 countries, Bekkers pointed to a series of “credible reports” indicating that more than one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities have been arbitrarily detained. Beijing has admitted that there are camps but that they are “vocational training centers” and necessary to counter “extremism”.
“There are reports of widespread surveillance going on, discrimination against Uighurs and other people belonging to minorities,” he said.
Read the joint statement here: https://t.co/iT2Vs5gEyC pic.twitter.com/q4p3epzsp4
– NL mission in Geneva (@NLinGeneva) June 14, 2022
The joint statement also expressed concern about “reports of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, forced sterilization, sexual and gender-based violence, forced labor and forced separation of children from parents by the authorities.”
The countries concerned, said Bekkers, “repeat our call to China to urgently address these concerns” and “put an end to the arbitrary detention of Muslim Uyghurs and persons belonging to other minorities”.
The group also called on Beijing to provide UN investigators and experts with “meaningful and unrestricted access” to independently observe the situation on the ground in Xinjiang.
After months of calling for “unrestricted access” to Xinjiang, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet finally visited China last month, the first visit by a UN human rights chief to the country. 17 years.
But he faced harsh criticism for not speaking out more strongly against China’s alleged abuses before and during the trip, which is believed to have been heavily scrutinized by Chinese authorities.
In Tuesday’s joint statement, the countries asked for “more detailed comments, including on the restrictions imposed by the Chinese authorities on Bachelet’s visit”.
Chinese Ambassador Chen Xu reacted angrily to the joint statement, condemning the Netherlands and other signatories for spreading what they claimed were “lies and rumors to attack China”.
“We categorically reject these accusations,” he said, accusing the countries behind the declaration of “hypocrisy” and “attempts at political manipulation”.
He welcomed Bachelet’s visit, insisting that “it has improved his understanding of China’s human rights development path”.
The UN rights chief has come under increasing pressure to publish his long-delayed report on Xinjiang, which diplomats say has been ready for months.
Bachelet, who announced on Monday that he will not seek a second term, promised the report would be released before his resignation on Aug.31.
The joint statement on Tuesday called for the report to be “released promptly” and asked Bachelet to provide “more information on the timeline.”
Specialist academics in Xinjiang, who in 2018 invited the United Nations to investigate the camps, also criticized Bachelet for her visit to China and urged her to publish the report as soon as possible.
“While we disagree on some questions about why Beijing is committing its atrocities in Xinjiang, we are unanimous in our understanding of what the Chinese state is doing on the ground,” said the 40 academics in an open letter published last year. week.
He continued: “This extraordinary consensus is the result of the unprecedented amount of evidence the Chinese state has provided in its documents, some leaked but most released publicly on the Chinese Internet. This evidence, complemented by survivors’ testimonies and satellite images, offer a detailed picture of what can credibly be called a genocide program ”.
Chen, meanwhile, denounced the “so-called exaggerated report on Xinjiang”, pointing out that it was not ordered by the UN Rights Council, arguing that it would violate Bachelet’s mandate and “shouldn’t be published at all.”
While a long line of countries that spoke individually on Tuesday echoed the criticism in the joint statement, some also came to China’s defense, with Belarus, Cuba and North Korea also insisting that the report shouldn’t. be published.
Venezuelan Ambassador Hector Constant Rosales agrees and said there has been “a prolonged fake news campaign against Xinjiang and China”.
The United Nations first revealed the detention of millions of ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang in late 2018, with Amnesty International later accusing Beijing of creating a “dystopian hell landscape” in the region.
China says the program has been stopped.