Nearly two dozen members of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) urged China to end to its campaign of mass incarceration of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in concentration camps in Xinjiang.
The detentions are designed to eradicate their religious and ethnic identities, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing diplomats and letters.
The news outlet acknowledged that the multinational condemnation of China’s concentration camps in Xinjiang marks the first time several members of the HRC join forces to denounce the mistreatment of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities at the hands of Beijing.
The unprecedented letter to the president of the [HRC] forum, dated July 8, was signed by the ambassadors of 22 countries. Australia, Canada and Japan were among them, along with European countries including Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland, but not the United States which quit the forum a year ago.
It fell short of a formal statement being read out at the Council or a resolution submitted for a vote, as sought by activists. This was due to governments’ fears of a potential political and economic backlash from China, diplomats said.
It is unclear whether any Muslim-majority country signed the letter. The Muslim world has been largely quiet about the abuse of their fellow Islam adherents in Xinjiang.
“The Trump administration has done more for the millions in camps than any Islamic leader,” Foreign Policy (FP) argued. According to the U.N., the United States, and independent assessments, China has forced between nearly one and two million Muslim minorities into the detention facilities, known as mind-transformation or re-education camps.
In March, the U.S. Department of State reported that China “significantly intensified” its crackdown on Muslims last year.
“We call on China to uphold its national laws and international obligations and to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religion or belief in Xinjiang and across China,” the letter obtained by Reuters stated.
“We call also on China to refrain from the arbitrary detention and restrictions on freedom of movement of Uighurs, and other Muslim and minority communities in Xinjiang,” it added.
The 22 countries also reportedly called on China to grant international independent experts, including U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, “meaningful access” to Xinjiang.
At the internment camps, prisoners face a plethora of human rights abuses, including torture, extrajudicial incarceration, and unlawful killing by the government. China is reportedly pushing the detainees to renounce their faith in favor of loyalty to the atheist Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Beijing denies the accusations, saying the camps are vocational and training facilities aimed at combating religious extremism, terrorism, and separatism. China argues that its measures in Xinjiang have contained terrorism in the region. Some Uighurs have joined jihadi groups and carried out attacks in China.
News reports have surfaced in recent days revealing that China is also deliberately separating Muslim children from their family, faith, and language in a bid to indoctrinate them to be loyal to CCP.
In the letter, the diplomats expressed concerns about the extrajudicial incarceration in “large-scale places of detention, as well as widespread surveillance and restrictions, particularly targeting Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.”