Forty-three countries on Thursday kept up pressure on China at the UN over accusations of rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang, sparking an angry response from China’s UN envoy.
While the group of mostly Western nations criticizes China annually in the UN General Assembly’s human rights committee, that rebuke was joined this year for the first time by countries including Turkey, Eswatini and Liberia.
The new additions to last year’s group, which included 39 nations, help push back against Chinese claims that the rebuke is part of a Western effort to keep China from rising.
In a statement — part of which was read by French Ambassador to the UN Nicolas de Riviere to the General Assembly rights committee — they voiced concern about increasing “reports of widespread and systematic human rights violations,” accusing China of detaining more than 1 million people in camps.
They said the abuse accusations included “reports documenting torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, forced sterilization, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced separation of children.”
Beijing denies all allegations of abuse of Uighurs and describes the camps as vocational training facilities to combat religious extremism.
Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun (張軍) hit back in a statement partly read to the committee.
“To the US and a few other countries: Your desperate attempts to cover up your own terrible human rights record will not work,” he said.
“No matter how many times repeated, lies are still lies,” he added. “You are using human rights as a pretext for political maneuvering to provoke confrontation.”
Although Zhang said that China was willing to host a “friendly” visit to the region, he did not agree to an inquiry by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who has been trying to negotiate access to Xinjiang to verify human rights abuse claims since September 2018.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg and AFP
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