China holding 1 mn Uighurs in mass detention camps

Blanche Robertson
August 12, 2018

Geneva: A United Nations human rights panel expressed grave concerns that there were credible reports that China is holding a million Uighur Muslims in mass detention camps in Xinjiang province.

Gay McDougall shared that the area could be coined as a "no rights zone", something she said over a two-day summit in which the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination discussed nothing but China's record with human rights and its current treatment of the "autonomous" region of Xinjiang. And it says another 2 million Uighurs have reportedly been forced to undergo indoctrination in "so-called re-education camps".

China has said that Xinjiang faces a serious threat from Islamist militants who plot attacks and stir up tensions between the mostly Muslim Uyghur minority and the ethnic Han Chinese majority.

A Chinese delegation of some 50 officials made no comment.

In opening remarks at Friday's session, Yu Jianhua, China's Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, praised China's policies toward minorities, saying they were aimed at promoting unity and harmony, and said economic progress in the region had lifted 20 million people out of poverty in the past five years.

Chinese delegation leader Yu Jianhua highlighted the economic progress he said Beijing has brought to the region. Most of those detained have reportedly never been charged with a crime; simple acts like having a long beard or using a Muslim greeting are enough to lead to arrest.

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The session continues on Monday, with conclusions expected later. Other rights groups have given lower figures.

Amnesty International wrote that "at a minimum, tens of thousands, with some sources estimating hundreds of thousands" of Uighurs have been detained.

Accounts from the region pointed to Muslims "being treated as enemies of the state exclusively on the basis of their ethno-religious identity", Mr. McDougall said, citing reports from activists and scholars that many had disappeared and that even the most commonplace religious practices had become grounds for punishment.

Interviews by The Washington Post with 20 other people in Kazakhstan familiar with the experiences of ethnic Kazakhs in China, including three former detainees and more than a dozen people who say they believe a family member is in detention, provided similar accounts of the camps, with additional details.

In addition, she pointed to reports of mass surveillance and the broad collection of DNA samples and iris scans in the Xinjiang.

Fatima-Binta Dah, a panel member, referred to "arbitrary and mass detention of nearly 1 million Uighurs" and asked the Chinese delegation, "What is the level of religious freedom available now to Uighurs in China, what legal protection exists for them to practice their religion?"

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