The United States highlighted the detention of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China in remarks honoring worldwide victims of torture Friday, as Uyghur and Tibetan rights groups called on the international community to hold Beijing accountable for its abuses of human rights.
“In the People’s Republic of China, more than a million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other predominantly Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang have been arbitrarily detained in internment camps, where many report torture,” said State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus in a statement.
The remarks were issued for the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, an annual observance on the anniversary of the day the UN Convention Against Torture went in to effect in 1987.
Ortagus noted that 166 countries had ratified the convention, but lamented that torture continues in places all over the globe.
She also condemned torture by governments in North Korea, Iran, Syria, Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe, as well as censuring Russia for arbitrary detention and torture in Chechnya.
“These countries are only a few examples of the many governments around the world that continue to use torture to silence dissent, coerce confessions, and extract extrajudicial punishment, actions which are antithetical to the rule of law,” Ortagus said.
“We call on all governments to act to prevent torture, to provide compensation and rehabilitation for survivors of torture, and to bring those who engage in torture to justice.”
WUC demands accountability for Beijing
The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) marked the day demanding that the Chinese government stop torturing not only interned Uyghurs in Xinjiang, but also people in other regions controlled by Beijing, including Hong Kong, where Beijing is imposing tough anti-sedition laws and police have violently dealt with public protests.
It said the Chinese Communist Party uses torture to keep Uyghur internees in line or force them to falsely confess to crimes, and to punish Uyghurs, Tibetans and Hong Kongers for their dissenting views against Chinese rule.
"The Chinese government is using torture and inhuman punishment to force Uyghurs to accept indoctrination and assimilation in the internment camps,” said Germany-based WUC President Dolkun Isa.
“This is an affront to human dignity and has left many camp detainees deeply traumatized. As an international community, we cannot accept this.”
The WUC called on the international community to pressure China to stop using torture; investigate systemic torture in the PRC, especially in internment camps; and require Beijing to implement the UN Convention Against Torture.
Also on Friday, more than 50 of the UN’s independent China experts voiced “alarm regarding the repression of fundamental freedoms in China,” and urged the international community to hold Beijing to its international human rights obligations.
The experts condemned expressed “grave concern” about issues including collective repression of religious and ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, the detention of lawyers, allegations of forced labor, censorship and anti-terrorism and sedition laws in Hong Kong, it said.
The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) lauded the UN statement as “welcome at a critical time for Tibet, which has been under a severe lockdown from the Chinese authorities.”
“There must be unfettered access to Tibet to create transparency and accountability, and reports about a wide range of systematic rights violations in Tibet must be investigated,” the Washington-based ICT said in a statement.
“The Chinese government must live up to its obligations according to international law. We strongly support the [experts’] recommendation to create a special independent mechanism to monitor and investigate human rights violations by the Chinese government, particularly in Tibet,” it added.
From India, meanwhile, the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), published a plea to the international community to investigate the unresolved case of spiritual leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, who died in a Chinese prison in 2015 after serving 13 years.
Through a translation provided by the TCHRD, the leader’s niece, Nyima Lhamo said her uncle was falsely convicted, and while in jail was subject to torture involving exposure to extremely cold and hot water.
“A genuine, transparent investigation of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s death and the prosecution of the responsible officials would send a clear message that the PRC is committed to rule of law and ending the culture of impunity that has allowed human rights violations to occur in Tibet unchecked,” the TCHRD said.