ARCHIVE – A Uyghur woman drives past a picture of China’s President Xi Jinping and a group of Uyghur elders with school children. On Thursday, 43 nations condemned human rights violations by China in a UN general assembly, including against the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region. Photo: Andy Wong / AP / dpa
“There are general and systematic human rights violations, torture, forced sterilization, sexual violence,” it said in a joint statement that was read out on Thursday by the French UN ambassador Nicolas De Rivière in a human rights committee of the UN General Assembly.
“Credible reports point to the existence of a large network of camps for” political re-education “in which over a million people were arbitrarily detained,” read a corresponding statement from the 43 participating countries. Beijing must allow observers from the United Nations, especially UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, unhindered access to the affected areas. In addition to a number of European countries, the USA, Canada, Japan, Turkey, Liberia and Honduras are among the signatories of the declaration.
According to estimates by human rights activists, around one million members of Muslim minorities are imprisoned in Xinjiang. The Beijing government accuses Uighur groups of separatism and terrorism. Critics speak of re-education camps in which Uyghurs are to be brought to the line of the communist party with sometimes brutal means. Beijing calls them vocational training institutions that inmates attend voluntarily.
In the UN Human Rights Committee, China’s ally Cuba responded with a statement that, according to its own statements, was supported by 62 countries – in which the states criticized the fact that no one had to interfere in Beijing’s domestic affairs. China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun reacted angrily in his speech and spoke of “baseless accusations” and “lies”: “You have no right to decide what is right for the Chinese people, let alone to teach China and to politicize and instrumentalize human rights issues ».
On a possible visit from Bachelet, Zhang said that consultations with the UN were still ongoing. “I want to reiterate that this visit should be a friendly one, not a so-called investigation into alleged guilt. That is not acceptable for China. ” The UN High Commissioner had announced an official UN report on Xinjiang – even without access to the region, which she had previously been denied.
According to diplomats, before the declaration of the predominantly Western group of states – in which Germany plays an active role – China had exerted immense pressure on individual countries. Among other things, poorer nations that are supported by a UN mission have been threatened with consequences with regard to their engagement. Only last week the UN mission in the Caribbean state of Haiti was extended after difficult negotiations, with China initially hinting at a veto. Unlike a similar statement made last year with 39 signatories, Haiti did not support Thursday’s statement.