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50 countries at UN condemn China's abuses against Uyghurs

50 countries at UN condemn China's rights abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang
2 min read
Fifty countries have condemned China for its 'severe and systematic' human rights violations against Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.
According to human rights organisations, thousands of Uyghurs have been unjustly detained [source: Getty]

Fifty countries on Monday signed onto a statement read during a UN debate that condemned the "severe and systematic" human rights violations in China's Xinjiang region.

"We are gravely concerned about the human rights situation in the People's Republic of China, especially the ongoing human rights violations of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang," said the statement, read out by Canada during a debate of the UN General Assembly Third Committee, which handles human rights.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in August published a long-awaited report on Xinjiang, citing possible crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the far-western region.

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Beijing rejects the allegations, claiming to be fighting terrorism and ensuring the region's development.

"Such severe and systematic violations of human rights cannot be justified on the basis of counter-terrorism. In view of the gravity of the OHCHR assessment, we are concerned that China has so far refused to discuss its findings," the statement added.

The 50 signatories include the United States, Britain, Japan, France, Australia, Israel, Turkey, Guatemala and even Somalia.

They urged Beijing to "implement the recommendations of the OHCHR assessment" which include "taking prompt steps to release all individuals arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in Xinjiang, and to urgently clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing family members and facilitate safe contact and reunion."

In early October, China managed to avoid a discussion of the OHCHR report at the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council after a majority of the body's 47 members blocked the beginning of debate.

Human Rights Watch, an international NGO, called Monday for the UN Human Rights Council to "try again" to hold the debate "as soon as possible."

"Clearly, diplomatic momentum in favor of holding Beijing accountable for its human rights violations is growing," said the NGO's UN director, Louis Charbonneau.

"Human Rights Watch is urging council members to attempt again at the earliest possible date to discuss and consider options for establishing a UN-backed mechanism to investigate further the Chinese government's responsibility for human rights violations," he added.