Monday, 14 October, 2019

China 'hopping mad' as 22 countries sign UN letter on Uighur Muslims

Arslan Hidayat and his father-in-law Adil Mijit Arslan Hidayat and his father-in-law Adil
Patty Aguilar | 13 July, 2019, 12:31

Almost two dozen countries have signed a joint letter to the United Nations calling on China to end the mass detention of Uighur people.

China claims that Uighurs are being educated in "vocational training centres" created to combat extremism.

Britain, France and Germany were among 18 European countries to co-sign the letter expressing concern about "credible reports of arbitrary detention.as well as widespread surveillance and restrictions, particularly targeting Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang".

The joint letter, without implementation constraints, also asks Beijing to allow free access to United Nations and other worldwide agencies' inspectors.

Activists had sought a formal resolution at the Council, but some analysts say the move was the only available option to spotlight the Uighur plight at the forum.

The decision was down to fears of political and economic retaliation from Beijing, diplomats told Reuters.

China said on Thursday its treatment of ethnic Muslims in "happy" and "secure" Xinjiang region was a model for other nations to follow despite a bombardment of Western criticism.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch later welcomed the letter as "important not only for Xinjiang's population, but for people around the world who depend on the U.N.'s leading rights body to hold even the most powerful countries to account".

The UN letter "attacks, slanders, and has unwarranted accusations against China", said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang at a regular press briefing in Beijing.

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China's representative said global organisations and media who visited Xinjiang had found the situation was different from its portrayal in the West, and that officials from countries behind the letter declined an invitation to visit.

A group of 22 countries have urged China to allow independent observers to access and investigate suspected grave human rights violations in Xinjiang.

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

Last month, China's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva said he hoped Bachelet would take up an invitation to visit.

"We welcome those who truly uphold the principles of objectivity and fairness to come to Xinjiang but firmly oppose any external forces interfering in China's internal affairs, undermining China's sovereignty and territorial integrity through Xinjiang issues", the spokesperson said.

No Western delegation was willing to take the lead and expose itself as a "ringleader" through a joint statement or resolution, diplomats said.

Diplomats rarely send open letters to the 47-member council to criticize a country's record, but the move may have been the only available option to spotlight Xinjiang, with China likely having enough support to vote down a formal resolution.

Beijing says it's fighting terrorism by offering vocational training to people influenced by extremist thinking.

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