22 countries rebuke China over detention of Uyghurs

22 countries rebuke China over detention of Uyghurs

Almost two dozen countries have rebuked China for its mass detentions in the northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

In a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), European countries including Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland as well as Australia, Canada and Japan called on China to halt the detention of ethnic Uyghurs.

The Uyghurs are a minority Turkic ethnic group originating from central Asia, most of whom live in Xinjiang.

China considers all support for independence of the territory to be “terrorism, extremism, and separatism”.

According to UN experts and activists, at least one million Uyghurs and other Muslims are held in detention centres in Xinjiang.

China claims these are “training centres” intended to stamp out extremism and give people new skills.

The unprecedented letter, dated 8 July and signed by 22 countries, refers to reports of unlawful detention, surveillance and restrictions targeting Uyghurs and other minorities.

“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 letter reads.

“We also call on China to refrain from the arbitrary detention and restrictions on freedom of movement of Uighurs, and other Muslim and minority communities in Xinjiang.”

Human Rights Watch welcomed the letter as “important not only for Xinjiang’s population, but for people around the world who depend on the UN’s leading rights body to hold even the most powerful countries to account.”

China is expected to respond to the letter by defending the detention centres as important for reducing terrorism and religious extremism.

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