Forty-three countries have called on China to “ensure full respect for the rule of law” for the Muslim Uighur community in Xinjiang, in a statement read at the United Nations on Thursday that sparked outrage from Beijing.
The declaration, signed by the US as well as several European and Asian member states and others, accused China of a litany of human rights violations against the Uighurs, including torture, forced sterilisation and forced disappearances.
“We call on China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and its office,” the countries said in a joint statement, read at the United Nations by France.
“We are particularly concerned about the situation in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,” the statement continued, citing “credible” reports that “indicate the existence of a large network of ‘political reeducation’ camps where over a million people have been arbitrarily detained.”
Beijing has long denied accusations of ethnic cleansing against Uighurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic people in Xinjiang, where experts have estimated that more than one million people are incarcerated in camps.
Its ambassador to the United Nations Zhang Jun furiously denounced Thursday what he termed the “lies” and “a plot to hurt China”.
“Xinjiang enjoys development and the people are emancipating themselves every day and are proud of the progress made,” he said.
And while Zhang told media that China was willing to host a “friendly” visit to the region, he did not agree to an inquiry by the UN human rights commissioner.
He accused Washington, Paris and London of having a “terrible human rights record.”
In a statement to media, Beijing accused the US for “inhumane ethnic cleansing” against Native Americans and accused France of committing “crimes against humanity” in its former colonies.
Similar declarations in 2019 and 2020 condemned China for its policies in Xinjiang, where the US has accused Beijing of carrying out genocide.
China has in response upped pressure on UN member states not to support the declarations, according to diplomats.