Detention of one million Uighur Muslims

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UK joins 22 other nations in condemning China,

call on Beijing to respect ‘freedom of religion or

belief’ over detention, torture in Xinjiang camp 

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NEW YORK: The UK has led 22 other countries at the United Nations (UN) in condemning China over the country’s detention of Muslims. The group strongly criticised Beijing in a joint statement. Other supporters included Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Japan.

But sadly, a rival group of 54 countries, including Pakistan, Russia, Belarus, Egypt, Serbia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, chose to praise China’s record on human rights. More than 30 other countries, including Saudi Arabia and Russia, supported China. Last month the US also led more than 30 countries in condemning what it called China’s “horrific campaign of repression” against Muslims.

The UN says at least one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims have been detained in camps in China’s remote Xinjiang province. Beijing claims the camps are “vocational training centres” designed to stamp out extremism and give people new skills. But former detainees have alleged that inmates are subjected to torture, medical experiments and gang rape. Others have said that Muslim detainees are forced to drink alcohol and eat pork.

The government has also reportedly destroyed domes and minarets at mosques across the country. 

China denies the allegations. The group of 23 nations pushed Beijing to urgently implement UN recommendations in Xinjiang, “including by refraining from the arbitrary detention of Uighurs and members of other Muslim communities.”

Karen Pierce, the UK’s UN ambassador, delivered the statement to the 193-member organisation’s human rights committee. “We call on the Chinese government to uphold its national laws and international obligations and commitments to respect human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, in Xinjiang and across China,” Ms Pierce said adding that the group were also calling on all countries not to deport refugees to countries where they could face persecution.

Beijing reacted angrily to the statement and said it was not “helpful” for US-China trade talks. Zhang Jun, China’s ambassador to the UN, claimed the accusations were “baseless” and a “gross interference in China’s internal affairs and deliberate provocation”.

He also said the US’ criticism of China could affect trade talks between Washington and Beijing. “It’s hard to imagine that on the one hand you are trying to seek to have a trade deal, on the other hand you are making use of any issues, especially human rights issues, to blame the others,” Mr Jun said.“I do not think its helpful for having a good solution to the issue of trade talks.”

54 countries including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia,

Russia support China, praise its human rights record

US and Chinese negotiators are working on the text of an interim trade agreement.  The teams hope the text will be ready for Donald Trump and Xi Jinping, China’s president, to sign at a summit in November.

“I would be standing here regardless if it was China or wherever it is, wherever there are human rights abuses we would be here in defence of those that are suffering,” said Kelly Craft, the US ambassador to the UN, when asked about the impact on trade talks.

Valentin Rybakov, Belarus’ UN ambassador, praised Beijing’s protection of rights while dealing with counterrrorism in Xinjiang. “Now safety and security have returned to Xinjiang and fundamental human rights of people of all ethnic groups there are safeguarded,” Mr Rybakov said.

The situation follows a similar one at the UN Human Rights Council on July, when more than 22 states, including the UK, called on China to halt mass detentions.

In a joint statement seen by Reuters and made to the 193-member U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee, the signers called on all countries not to send refugees or asylum seekers back to a place where they face persecution.

China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in remote Xinjiang that it describes as “vocational training centers” to stamp out extremism and give people new skills. The United Nations says at least one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims have been detained.

The statement on Tuesday is due to be made during a General Assembly rights committee meeting on the elimination of racial discrimination.

Diplomats said other countries who back the statement include: Albania, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden.

“We call on the Chinese government to uphold its national laws and international obligations and commitments to respect human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, in Xinjiang and across China,” the statement reads.

It pushes China to “urgently” implement recommendations by independent U.N. experts on the situation in Xinjiang, including by refraining from the arbitrary detention of Uighurs and members of other Muslim communities.”

“We express concern regarding Chinese authorities harassment and intimidation of civil society representatives who raise concerns about Xinjiang in U.N. fora,” the statement reads.

The statement follows a similar move in July when 22 states at the U.N. Human Rights Council wrote a letter calling on China to halt its mass detention. In response, Saudi Arabia, Russia and more than 30 other countries wrote a rival letter commending what they called China’s remarkable rights achievements.