Dozens of countries voiced concern Tuesday at alleged abuses in China’s Xinjiang region, and demanded that the UN rights chief publish a long-delayed report on the rights situation there.
“We continue to be gravely concerned about the human rights situation in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region,” Paul Bekkers, the Dutch ambassador to the UN in Geneva, told the UN Human Rights Council.
Delivering a joint statement on behalf of 47 countries, he pointed to a number of “credible reports” – vehemently rejected by China – indicating that more than 1 million Uygurs and members of other Muslim minorities have been arbitrarily detained in the region.
“There are reports of ongoing widespread surveillance, discrimination against Uygurs and other persons belonging to minorities,” he said.
The joint statement also voiced concern about “reports of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, forced sterilisation, sexual and gender-based violence, forced labour, and forced separation of children from their parents by authorities”.
The countries, he said, “repeat our call on China to urgently address these concerns”, and to “end the arbitrary detention of Muslim Uygurs and persons belonging to other minorities”.
They also called on Beijing to provide UN investigators and experts “meaningful and unfettered access” to independently observe the situation on the ground.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet was granted access to visit last month – marking the first visit by a UN rights chief to China in 17 years.
But she faced harsh criticism for not speaking up more forcefully against China’s alleged abuses before and during the trip, which is believed to have been heavily controlled by Chinese authorities.
In Tuesday’s joint statement, the countries asked for “more detailed observations, including on the restrictions the Chinese authorities imposed on the visit”.