China’s foreign minister Wang Yi said on Sunday, allegations his country is carrying out genocide against Muslim Uighurs are “ridiculously absurd” and “a complete lie”.
A number of nations have used the term to describe Chinese treatment of Uighur people amid growing evidence of abuses at “re-education camps” in Xinjiang province.
BBC investigations suggest that Uighurs are being used as forced labour and have revealed allegations of systematic rape and torture.
China has banned BBC World News television over the corporation’s coverage of the Uighur issue and coronavirus.
The UN says at least one million members of the Muslim minority are being held in the camps, which China says provide vocational training for jobs and are aimed at eradicating Muslim extremism.
But both the current and former US secretaries of state have described China’s treatment of Uighurs as genocide, as has Canada and the Netherlands.
The allegations have prompted calls in some countries to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Speaking on Sunday, the minister said Western politicians were choosing to believe lies about what is happening in Xinjiang and said China would welcome people to visit the region.
“The so-called ‘genocide’ in Xinjiang is a rumour with ulterior motives and a complete lie,” the Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.
“When it comes to ‘genocide’, most people think of native Americans, African slaves, Jews in Germany, and indigenous Australians,” he said, taking a swipe at the human rights records of some of Beijing’s critics.
Asked about friction with the US over Taiwan and the South China Sea, Wang said Beijing “will never accept baseless accusations and smears”.
He defended Beijing’s newly announced plans to reform the electoral system in Hong Kong, saying the changes were constitutional and justified.
“Hong Kong’s transition from chaos to governance is fully in the interests of all parties,” he insisted, claiming reform would bring a “brighter future” to the city.
Critics accuse Beijing of crushing dissent in Hong Kong and eroding rights under the “one country, two systems” agreement it made with the UK when Hong Kong was handed back to China.