Chinese diplomats to face grilling on Xinjiang camps

Activists called for UN member states to pressure China this week to account for alleged human rights violations including the suspected mass detention of one million Muslim Uighurs in far-western Xinjiang province. — File

"The Human Rights Council must send an unequivocal message to the Chinese government that their campaign of systematic repression in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, including the arbitrary detention of up to 1 million people, must end", said Patrick Poon (潘燊昌), a China researcher at Amnesty International.

A United Nations panel of human rights experts said on August 10external link that it had received reports that one million ethnic Uighurs in China were being held in what resembles a "massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy".

All 193 UN member states must undergo a periodic review by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

During the half-day session, diplomats from around the world will have the chance to raise concerns, ask questions and make recommendations for changes.

Washington also wants Beijing to provide "the number of people involuntarily held in all detention facilities in Xinjiang during the past five years".

Britain has asked when China will implement recommendations from a United Nations racial discrimination panel that it "halt the practice of detaining individuals who have not been lawfully charged, tried and convicted for a criminal offense in any extra-legal detention facilities".

Western countries including Canada, France and Germany called on China on Tuesday to close down detention camps, which activists say hold 1 million Uighurs and other Muslims.

China has often stressed that Xinjiang faces a threat from Islamist militants and separatists.

Beijing should "halt massive imprisonment" and "guarantee freedom of religion and belief, including in Tibet and Xinjiang", French Ambassador Francois Rivasseau said.

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Beijing says its "vocational training centers" in Xinjiang camps teach employment skills and legal knowledge aimed at curbing religious extremism.

But an AFP investigation published in October showed that local authorities had bought gear for the centres including police batons, electric cattle prods, handcuffs, pepper spray, stun guns and razor wire.

"The chinese government must provide answers to the questions of the global community", said AFP Maya Wang of Human Rights Watch (HRW).

But one after another, Western countries spoke out against what they described as a deterioration in China's human rights since the last review, especially over its treatment of Muslims in the western province of Xinjiang. Officials in Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and Macao will also be present.

China's Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng on Tuesday said that China's perspective on human rights has been widely understood, recognized and supported.

"All UN member states have an equal opportunity to press China on its egregious human rights record, and they shouldn't waste it", Human Rights Watch's Geneva director John Fisher said in a statement Monday.

In July 2017, dissident activist and Nobel Peace Prize victor Liu Xiaobo died of liver cancer while under police custody.

In 2015, more than 200 Chinese human rights lawyers and activists were detained or questioned in a sweep known as the "709" crackdown. Protesters met in front of Palais Wilson at 9 am and marched at 10 am to the Broken Chair, where a static demonstration was held from 11 am to 13 pm, which counted with speeches from the civil society as well as other leaders, who shared a common concern regarding human rights violations in China.

Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China, told Reuters at the event: "The detention of over a million ethnic Uighurs is a tipping point for the worldwide community".

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