Dozens of countries have voiced concern about alleged abuses in China’s Xinjiang region, and demanded that the United Nations 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 Uighur Autonomous Region,” Paul Bekkers, the Dutch ambassador to the UN in Geneva, told the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday.
Delivering a joint statement on behalf of 47 countries, Bekkers pointed to a number of “credible reports” – vehemently rejected by China – indicating that more than one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities have been arbitrarily detained in the region.
“There are reports of ongoing widespread surveillance, discrimination against Uighurs and other persons belonging to minorities,” he said.
— NL Mission in Geneva (@NLinGeneva) June 14, 2022
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 concerned countries, Bekkers said, “repeat our call on China to urgently address these concerns”, and to “end the arbitrary detention of Muslim Uighurs and persons belonging to other minorities”.
The group also called on Beijing to provide UN investigators and experts “meaningful and unfettered access” to independently observe the situation on the ground in Xinjiang.
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 prior to 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” by Bachelet.
China’s Ambassador Chen Xu reacted angrily to the joint statement, slamming the Netherlands and the other signatories for spreading “lies and rumours to attack China”.
“We categorically reject these allegations,” he said, slamming the countries behind the statement for their “hypocrisy” and “attempts to engage in political manipulation”.
He hailed Bachelet’s visit, insisting it had “enhanced her understanding of China’s path of human rights development”.
The UN rights chief has faced growing pressure to release a long-delayed report on the rights situation in Xinjiang, which diplomats say has been ready for months but not published.
Bachelet, who announced on Monday that she will not be seeking a second term, vowed that the report would be published before she steps down on August 31.
Tuesday’s joint statement urged the report’s “prompt release”, and asked Bachelet to provide “further information on the timeline”.
Chen, meanwhile, decried the “hyped-up so-called report on Xinjiang”, pointing out that it had not been ordered by the UN’s rights council, alleging it violated Bachelet’s mandate and “should not be published at all”.
While a long line of countries that took the floor individually on Tuesday echoed the sentiments in the joint statement, a number also came to China’s defence, with Belarus, Cuba and North Korea also insisting the report should not be published.
Venezuela’s Ambassador Hector Constant Rosales said the same, slamming “a sustained campaign of fake news against Xinjiang and China”.