Activist countries

Dozens of countries condemn China over Xinjiang abuse allegations

HONG KONG — Nearly 50 nations are calling on China to respond to allegations of widespread rights abuses in its western region of Xinjiang and on the UN rights chief to issue a long-delayed report on the allegations.

The joint statement delivered to the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday comes after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet was widely criticized for arranging a tightly coordinated trip to Xinjiang on last month.

Millions of the region’s Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have reportedly suffered abuse, including torture, forced labor and arbitrary detention, which some critics have called genocide.

Signed by 47 countries, including Japan, Germany, Britain and the United States, the statement said the signatories “continue to be gravely concerned” by allegations of a year-long crackdown on cultural and religious practices in Xinjiang, which China categorically denies.

“We are also concerned 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 their parents by authorities,” said Paul Bekkers, Ambassador of the Netherlands. at the UN in Geneva, the Human Rights Council said in its statement.

The letter urges China to “end the arbitrary detention of Uyghur Muslims and people belonging to other minorities” and to comply with its obligations under national and international human rights law.

Chen Xu, China’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, condemned the letter for spreading “lies and rumors aimed at attacking China”, adding that Beijing “categorically rejects these allegations”.

“The Human Rights Council has become increasingly politicized and confrontational, and disinformation has become rampant, which seriously defeats the original purpose of the Human Rights Council,” he said. Chen said.

In a non-binding vote on Thursday, the European Parliament called alleged abuses in Xinjiang “crimes against humanity” and warned of “a serious risk of genocide”.

Next week, Washington was due to usher in a new law that would bar any goods produced in the region from entering the United States unless importers can prove they were not made by forced labor.

Researchers and rights groups have published detailed accounts alleging China’s repression of more than 12 million Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.

Beijing denies allegations of abuse and says the alleged internment camps are instead “vocational training centers” aimed at countering religious extremism.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet gestures as she addresses the media after announcing she will not seek a second term on the Human Rights Council. © Reuters

Bachelet’s visit to the region in May was widely criticized after she agreed to the tour without the unfettered access her office had demanded from Beijing.

The trip, the first by a UN rights chief to China in 17 years, was the product of years of negotiations with the government, but Bachelet declined to describe it as an investigation.

“I have raised questions and concerns regarding the application of counter-terrorism and de-radicalization measures and their broad application – in particular their impact on the rights of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities,” a- she told reporters after her visit.

Bachelet, who said this week that she would not seek a second term for personal reasons, also said her office’s report would be further delayed because it first needed to be updated and shared with the Chinese government. The report was due to be released last year.

“She ignored all these calls, recommendations and concerns about the trip,” said Alkan Akad, China researcher at Amnesty International. “It would be naïve to think that she was unaware of these calls and concerns…I think she was under pressure from various sides, including the Chinese government.”

China said the report should not be released at all.

Tuesday’s joint statement repeated calls for the report to be released, echoing a recent letter signed by 40 international scholars criticizing Bachelet’s trip.

“Rarely does an academic field achieve the level of consensus reached by scholars of Xinjiang study. Although we disagree on some issues 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,” the open letter read.

James Millward, a history professor at Georgetown University, said Bachelet’s use of Chinese government terminology on de-radicalization measures was a dangerous setback.

“His statement … does not reflect the academic consensus,” Millward, one of the signatories, told Nikkei Asia. “That consensus with a lot of empirical data behind it, it was available to her and available to her staff.”

Last week, a petition signed by more than 200 activists and human rights groups called for Bachelet’s resignation following his trip.