The United States, Germany and Britain clashed with China at the United Nations over its treatment of Uyghurs and people from other predominantly Muslim groups in Xinjiang, as they pursued a virtual event in which Beijing had pressured UN member states to stay away. .
“We will continue to stand up and speak out until the Chinese government ends its crimes against humanity and the genocide of Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang,” the US ambassador told Xinhua. UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the event, which organizers said drew around 50 people. country Wednesday.
The UN, some western countries, academics and rights groups say hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs have been sent to re-education camps in the far west. China has acknowledged the existence of the camps, but says they are vocational training centers needed to fight extremist groups.
“In Xinjiang, people are tortured. Women are forcibly sterilized, ”said Thomas-Greenfield.
Amnesty International’s secretary general, Agnes Callamard, told the event that around one million Uyghurs and predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities were being arbitrarily detained.
In a note to UN member states last week, China’s UN mission dismissed accusations of “lies and false allegations” and accused host countries of being “obsessed with provoking the confrontation with China ”.
He urged countries “NOT to participate in this anti-China event,” but a Chinese diplomat responded to the accusations on Wednesday.
“China has nothing to hide about Xinjiang,” Chinese diplomat Guo Jiakun said. “Xinjiang is still open. We welcome everyone to visit Xinjiang, but we oppose any kind of investigation based on lies and with the presumption of guilt. “
The event was organized by Germany, the United States and Great Britain and co-sponsored by Canada, Australia, New Zealand and several other European countries.
Barbara Woodward, the British Ambassador to the UN, told the meeting that there was “evidence of arbitrary mass detention, enforced disappearances and incidences of torture. There are other reports of forced labor and widespread sterilization ”.
There were also reports of the destruction of Muslim cemeteries, the separation of children and the coercion to eat pork in violation of their religious beliefs.
“We are here today to face these facts. And to ask China to allow immediate, meaningful and unhindered access to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and her office, ”said Woodward.
“We call on China to respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and we have asked China to demolish the detention camps,” German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen added.
“If you have nothing to hide, why don’t you finally grant unimpeded access to the High Commissioner for Human Rights?” He asked China.
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet was not present at the event and her absence was noted by Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth.
“I’m sure she’s busy,” he said. “You know we all are. But I have a similar global mandate to defend human rights and I couldn’t think of anything more important to do than join you here today.
Ravina Shamdasani, deputy spokesperson for the UN human rights office, said Bachelet – who expressed serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang – was unable to attend. .
“The High Commissioner continues to dialogue with the Chinese authorities on the modalities of such a visit,” she said, adding that Bachelet’s office “continues to collect and analyze relevant information and to monitor near the situation ”.
Later Wednesday, during the launch of its annual report on the state of religious freedom in the world, a US State Department official accused China of turning Xinjiang into a “outdoor prison“.
Daniel Nadel, a senior official in the State Department’s Office for International Freedom, said the population was under close surveillance.
“The movements of people are closely monitored,” he said during a press briefing. “You have guards who have been assigned to live with the Uyghurs to keep an eye on them. There are people who go to the market and have to check in every time they go to a different market stall, ”he said.
The report also detailed the persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual group by China.