Western countries rebuke China at UN for detention of Uighurs

At least one million people are detained in so-called training centres in China's Xinjiang province according to the UN

At least one million people are detained in so-called training centres in China's Xinjiang province according to the UN

Australia, Canada and Japan were among them, along with European countries including Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland, but not the United States which quit the forum a year ago.

China on Thursday refuted a letter, jointly signed by 22 nations, criticizing China's policy in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. "The idea of a resolution was never on the cards". "It is a signal".

In addition to travel restrictions and a massive surveillance network, China is estimated to have arbitrarily detained up to one million Muslims in prison-like detention centres in Xinjiang, with reports of harsh treatment and poor living conditions inside.

Satellite image of a "vocational training center" in Hejing County, Xinjiang, which began construction early on 2018.

In a letter to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, the group of 22 nations urged China to end its "mass arbitrary detentions and related violations" and called on Beijing to allow UN experts to access the region.

"We call also on China to refrain from the arbitrary detention and restrictions on freedom of movement of Uighurs, and other Muslim and minority communities in Xinjiang", it added.

The letter urges China to allow global independent experts, including UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, "meaningful access" to Xinjiang.

While China restricts access and reporting in Xinjiang, Geng said it would welcome a visit by Michelle Bachelet.

No Western delegation was willing to take the lead and expose itself as a "ringleader" through a joint statement or resolution, diplomats said. China was thought to have enough votes to stop any resolution, hence the unusual step of an open letter of criticism from diplomats instead.

At the start of the three-week session, which ends on Friday, the Xinjiang vice governor responded to the global condemnation of the state-run detention camps by saying that they were vocational centres which had helped "save" people from "extremist" influences.

In October past year, Chinese authorities in the far-northwestern region of Xinjiang revised legislation to permit the use of "education and training centers" to combat religious extremism.

Allegations of torture inside the camps are rampant, including in accounts given to CNN by former detainees describing forced education under the threat of violence.

According to the US State Department, up to 2 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyzs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities have been held against their will in the camps.

"We welcome those who truly uphold the objective and fair principle to go to Xinjiang and look around, but we resolutely oppose any external forces using the Xinjiang issue to interfere in China's internal affairs and undermine China's sovereignty and territorial integrity", Geng said.

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