US Condemns China’s Policies in Xinjiang as Genocide at UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

2021-03-12
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US Condemns China’s Policies in Xinjiang as Genocide at UN Human Rights Council in Geneva The U.N. Human Rights Council is shown in session in Geneva in a June 30, 2020 photo.
AFP

The United States on Friday slammed China’s harsh treatment of ethnic Uyghurs and other religious minority groups in an address before the U.N. Human Rights Council, describing Beijing’s policies in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) as “genocide.”

“We condemn China’s abuse of members of ethnic and religious minority groups including crimes against humanity and genocide in Xinjiang and severe restrictions in Tibet,” U.S. charge d’affaires Mark Cassayre told the Geneva-based U.N. rights body.

Cassayre’s comments followed a call on Wednesday by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken for China to allow international monitors to probe reports of abuses in the XUAR, where authorities are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps since early 2017.

Reports suggest the camps in Xinjiang are used as punishment for signs of “extremism” that authorities say include practicing basic forms of Islam, adhering to cultural traditions, and violating strict family-planning policies.

Speaking to RFA’s Uyghur Service, Dolkun Isa—president of the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress—welcomed reports that Blinken and U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will meet on March 18 with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Anchorage, where the issue of China’s polices in Xinjiang is likely to be on the agenda.

“The Biden Administration’s strong position on holding China accountable for committing both genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and other indigenous people of East Turkestan give us great hope and assurance,” Isa said, referring to Xinjiang by the name preferred by many Uyghurs for their historic homeland.

“We hope that Secretary Blinken and Advisor Sullivan will make the following demands from Chinese officials,” Isa said.

“First, China must immediately and unconditionally halt the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in East Turkestan,” Isa said, adding that China must close the internment camps and free all detainees, including what he called “slave laborers” sent from Xinjiang to work in Mainland China.

Blinken should also insist the U.N., U.S., and European Union be allowed “unfettered” access to the XUAR to investigate the abuses that have already taken place, Isa said.

“Finally, China must pay reparations for all the pain and suffering it has inflicted on the Uyghurs and other indigenous peoples for committing genocide against them,” Isa said.

'Vocational training'

Chinese officials have called the internment camps in Xinjiang centers for “vocational training,” but reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media outlets shows that detainees are mostly held against their will in cramped and unsanitary conditions, where they are forced to endure inhumane treatment and political indoctrination.

Under increasing international scrutiny, authorities in the region have begun to send detainees to work at factories as part of an effort to label the camps “vocational centers,” although those held in the facilities regularly toil under forced or coerced labor conditions.

Speaking in Geneva, British ambassador Julian Braithwaite said the U.K. remains “deeply concerned by the extensive and systematic human rights violations in Xinjiang, including credible reports of forced labour and forced birth control.”

Cuba, speaking in Geneva in support of China, meanwhile called on states to “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs by manipulating Xinjiang-related issues, [and] refrain from making unfounded allegations against China out of political motivations."

U.S. Secretary of State Blinken has asserted the intention of the newly minted Biden administration to rejoin the UNHRC after his predecessor, Donald Trump, withdrew from the body in 2018, in part for what it has said are membership rules that “allow the election of the world’s worst human rights abusers to seats on the Council.”

The European Union will target China with sanctions, including a travel ban and asset freezes targeting four people and one entity in Xinjiang, for its treatment of the Uyghurs and others in Xinjiang, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday from Brussels.

Reported and translated by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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