China grilled over internment camps
GENEVA: China faced harsh criticism over its rights record during a review before the United Nations on Tuesday, with countries voicing alarm at its mass detainment of ethnic Uighurs and its crackdown on civil liberties.
During the half-day public debate at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, a number of countries raised concerns about China’s treatment of ethnic minorities, including Uighurs and Tibetans.
Outside the UN, around 500 protesters waved banners saying “China, stop genocide of Uighurs” and “Tibet dying, China lies”, as the debate got underway.
The Universal Periodic Review – which all UN countries must undergo approximately every four years – came amid increasing scrutiny over what activists describe as mass political re-education camps in China’s fractious Xinjiang region.
As many as one million Uighurs and other minorities are being kept in extra-judicial detention in the region, according to an estimate recently cited by an independent UN panel, and repeated during Tuesday’s debate.
Activists say members of China’s minorities are held involuntarily for transgressions such as wearing long beards and face veils.
“We are alarmed by the government of China’s worsening crackdown on Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslims in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,” US representative Mark Cassayre told the council.
Washington, he said, would like to see China “abolish all forms of arbitrary detention, including internment camps in Xinjiang, and immediately release the hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of individuals detained”.
A long line of countries echoed those concerns.
French ambassador Francois Rivasseau asked that China “put an end to its massive internment in camps, and to invite the UN high commissioner for human rights” to observe the situation.
The Chinese delegation, however, rejected a number of the issues raised, with China’s vice foreign minister Le Yucheng slamming “politically driven accusations from a few countries which are fraught with biases”.
The delegation reiterated Beijing’s line that the security measures were necessary to combat extremism and terrorism, and that they did not target any specific ethnic group. – AFP