China hits back after UN report on Uyghur ‘re-education camps’
China has accused the United Nations of relying on “unsubstantiated and irresponsible information” after an international committee released a damning report into the treatment of Uyghurs in China’s far-west region of Xinjiang.
In a report Thursday, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed alarm at the “numerous reports of detention of large numbers of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities held incommunicado and often for long periods, without being charged or tried, under the pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism.”
Responding to the allegations at a regular press conference Friday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the allegations were “not true.”
“Maintaining lasting peace and security in Xinjiang is the common wish of all ethnicities,” she said. “The policies and measures in Xinjiang are aimed at preserving stability, promoting development and unity, and improving livelihood.”
The UN report cited evidence from Xinjiang that tens of thousands of Uyghurs and other minorities were being held in “long-term detention or who have been forced to spend varying periods in political ‘re-education camps’ for even non- threatening expressions of Muslim ethno-religious culture like daily greetings.”
Some unconfirmed estimates from Uyghur groups based in the US claim the number of people detained in this fashion is over one million.
The UN Committee called for the immediate release of wrongfully detained individuals and the undertaking of “prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into all allegations of racial, ethnic and ethno-religious profiling.”
This week, a bipartisan group of US lawmakers called for Chinese officials involved in alleged human rights violations in Xinjiang to be sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act.
“The detention of as many as a million or more Uyghurs and other predominately Muslim ethnic minorities in ‘political reeducation’ centers or camps requires a tough, targeted, and global response,” they said in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In response to the letter, MOFA spokeswoman Hua said that on the issue of human rights “the Chinese record is better than even the US so the US is really not in a position to judge China on this issue in this regard.”
“China is committed to ensuring the religious freedom of the Chinese citizens,” she said, adding she hoped US lawmakers “can stop this kind of bias and stop hurting the mutual trust and cooperation between the China and the US.”
Tensions have increased between Washington and Beijing in recent months over an ongoing trade war, with both sides imposing heavy tariffs on each other’s imports.
US President Donald Trump has also accused China of interfering in stalled denuclearization talks on the Korean Peninsula, though this week Pyongyang blamed Washington for the status of the negotiations and called on Trump to honor commitments made during his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June.