Rights groups urge UN chief to condemn China over Muslim persecution

Pic: Amnesty International

Five human rights organisations have urged the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to condemn the Chinese government’s detention of more than a million Muslims in the Xinjiang region and call for the immediate closure of government detention camps.

In a letter to the U.N. chief, the organisations said these actions would be an important contribution to addressing “one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time.”

Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International Secretary General, said: “In the words of Mr Guterres himself, human rights are universal regardless of race, beliefs or location. We are asking him to apply that principle to the one million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims who continue to be arbitrarily detained by the Chinese authorities in so-called ‘political education camps’ in Xinjiang.

“Mr Guterres’ private diplomacy on this issue is clearly not working. He must immediately speak out publicly against the persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang or he will forever be remembered for failing hundreds of thousands of people in this crucial moment.”

Antonio Guterres

The coalition’s letter calls on Guterres to support the creation of a fact-finding mission to assess the scale and nature of crimes under international law and human rights violations in Xinjiang, and to meet with representatives from the Uyghur community. It also urges the UN Head to refrain from praising, without qualification, Beijing’s “Belt and Road” investment initiative, in which Xinjiang is a centerpiece.

“There are many causes for serious concern about the state of human rights in China, but the egregious scale and severity of the situation in Xinjiang demands urgent global attention as more and more predominantly Muslim minorities are unlawfully detained,” said Naidoo.

“The mere fact that we are forced to make a public call on the UN Secretary-General to speak out about an abuse of this magnitude is a damning indictment of his leadership.”

Since 2017 the Chinese authorities has overseen an intensifying campaign of mass internment, intrusive surveillance, political indoctrination and forced cultural assimilation against Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups in Xinjiang province, northwest China.

Those sent to detention camps are not put on trial, have no access to lawyers or right to challenge the decision.

The Chinese authorities claim their campaign of unlawful detention in Xinjiang is a necessary measure to “counter terrorism.”

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