Nearly two dozen countries at the United Nations’ Human Rights Council in Geneva have urged China to end mass arbitrary detentions, as well as widespread surveillance and restrictions, on Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
“We call on China to uphold its national laws and international obligations and to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religion or belief, in Xinjiang and across China,” the representatives of 22 nations said in a joint statement issued earlier this week.
“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.”
In an unprecedented move, the countries also called on China to allow the U.N. high commissioner for human rights and other U.N. experts “meaningful access” to the XUAR to investigate the region’s internment camps, where authorities are believed to have detained up to 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas since April 2017.
This week’s statement came after the vice governor of the XUAR, Erkin Tuniyaz, defended his government’s policy of incarcerating Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in internment camps to the Rights Council, repeating for the U.N. Beijing’s claims that the camps are part of a vocational training program that is saving those influenced by religious extremism.
Reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media organizations, however, has shown that those in the camps are detained against their will and subjected to political indoctrination, routinely face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers, and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities.