China: UN Secretary-General should denounce human rights violations in Xinjiang

Antonio Guterres should publicly condemn China’s widespread violations of the rights of its Muslim minority citizens, especially in Xinjiang Province, the ICJ demanded in a joint letter submitted along with Amnesty International, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Human Rights Watch, and the World Uyghur Congress.

The joint letter urged the UN Secretary-General to call for an end to widespread arbitrary detention of Muslim and minority communities through the immediate closure of Xinjiang’s ‘political education’ camps. Reports by the United Nations and human rights organizations have estimated that more than one million Muslims have been interned in extra-legal ‘political education’ detention camps.

“In the past few years, China’s violations in Xinjiang, including arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, pervasive surveillance and political indoctrination of Turkic Muslims, have intensified, and continue to worsen,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Secretary General.

“Quiet diplomacy has not worked. Mr. Guterres must exercise the full extent and power of his mandate as leader of the United Nations to demand and ensure protection of the rights of everyone in China, including all individuals in Xinjiang.”

The joint letter urged the UN Secretary-General to publicly support the creation of a UN fact-finding mission to assess the scale and nature of crimes under international law and human rights violations in Xinjiang. It further called on the UN Secretary-General to refrain from unqualified praise of China’s ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative – an investment initiative in which Xinjiang is a centerpiece – and to meet with representatives from the Uyghur community to hear first-hand of their plight.

“China has exerted immense and often inappropriate political pressure on individuals, governments and organizations criticizing its human rights violations,” said Zarifi. “The United Nations must push back against China’s political pressure and provide principled and steadfast leadership to end China’s political and cultural repression, and ongoing human rights violations in Xinjiang.”

Public criticism of China’s actions in Xinjiang has been growing. In August 2018, a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted that China’s treatment of its Muslim minority citizens in Xinjiang had turned the region into a “‘no rights’ zone” with individuals being treated as “enemies of the State based on nothing more than their ethno-religious identity”. In March 2019, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, highlighted the need for her office to gain full access to facilitate independent and impartial investigation into ‘wide patterns of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions’ in the region. On 10 July 2019, 25 countries issued a joint statement calling on China to refrain from subjecting Uyghurs and other Muslim and minority communities in Xinjiang to arbitrary detention, surveillance and restrictions on freedom of movement.

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