Mon, Nov 05, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Chinese diplomats to face grilling on Xinjiang camps


In this May 11 image from undated video footage run by China Central Television via AP Video, the exterior of the Hotan Vocational Education and Training Center is pictured behind barbed wire in Hotan, Xinjiang.

Photo: AP Video / China Central Television

China is to be grilled over its mass detainment of Uighur minorities during a UN human rights review tomorrow, with Washington leading demands for Beijing to come clean on how many people are held in a sprawling network of camps.

As many as 1 million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are being kept in extra-judicial detention in China’s fractious far western Xinjiang region, according to estimates cited by a UN panel.

The centers where they are thought to be detained have come under increasing scrutiny this year, with rights activists describing them as political re-education camps.

They have said members of China’s Muslim minorities are held involuntarily for transgressions such as wearing long beards and face veils.

“The Human Rights Council must send an unequivocal message to the Chinese government that their campaign of systematic repression in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, including the arbitrary detention of up to 1 million people, must end,” said Patrick Poon (潘嘉偉), a China researcher at Amnesty International.

All 193 UN member states must undergo a periodic review by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

China is to present a report on its domestic human rights situation and on changes made since its last report in 2013, while diplomats from around the world would have the opportunity to ask questions — some of which have already been submitted.

One question by the US says: “Can China clarify the basis for its apparent criminalization of peaceful religious practices as justification to detain people in these political ‘re-education’ camps in Xinjiang, as well as which officials are responsible for this policy?”

Washington also wants Beijing to provide “the number of people involuntarily held in all detention facilities in Xinjiang during the past five years.”

Britain has asked when China will implement recommendations from a UN racial discrimination panel that it “halt the practice of detaining individuals who have not been lawfully charged, tried and convicted for a criminal offense in any extra-legal detention facilities.”

The US and Germany have requested UN access to Xinjiang and Tibet to investigate allegations of mass detention and restrictions on religious freedoms.

Beijing previously denied the existence of such camps, but now defends them as “vocational education and training centers” where students study Mandarin, brush up on job skills, and pursue hobbies.

Chinese officials have said the facilities are part of efforts to combat terrorism, religious extremism and separatism in Xinjiang following unrest that left hundreds dead in the past few years.

“The Chinese government owes some answers to international questions about Xinjiang,” Maya Wang (王松蓮), senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, told reporters.

The UN human rights review is a chance for countries to “focus their firepower on Xinjiang,” although its effectiveness will depend on “whether or not there is commitment from the states to push for accountability,” she added.

Beijing is to send Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Yucheng (樂玉成) to head the delegation to the Geneva review, as well as officials from Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and Macau.

In addition to Xinjiang, China is expected to come under scrutiny for other aspects of its human rights record, especially Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) crackdown on civil liberties and religious freedoms.

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