The UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, has called for independent investigators to be given “urgent and unfettered access” to Xinjiang to inspect the welfare of Uyghur Muslims.
Speaking at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Raab said: “We see almost daily reports now that shine a new light on China’s systematic human rights violations perpetrated against Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang. The situation in Xinjiang is beyond the pale. The reported abuses – which include torture, forced labour and forced sterilisation of women – are extreme and they are extensive. They are taking place on an industrial scale. It must be our collective duty to ensure this does not go unanswered.
“UN mechanisms must respond. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, or another independent fact-finding expert, must – and I repeat must – be given urgent and unfettered access to Xinjiang. If members of this Human Rights Council are to live up to our responsibilities, there must be a resolution which secures this access.
“The UK will live up to our responsibilities. So last month, I announced measures aimed at ensuring that no company profiting from forced labour in Xinjiang can do business in the UK, and that no UK businesses are involved in their supply chains.”
In his speech Raab said the UK places particular focus on: championing freedom of religion and belief; defending media freedom; and also championing the values of liberal democracy.
He also criticised China over it policies in Hong Kong and Tibet.
On the other hand, at the same meeting China rejected “slanderous attacks” about conditions for Muslim Uyghurs and other minorities living in its Xinjiang region, saying that they enjoyed freedom of religion and other fundamental rights.
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Foreign Minister Wang Yi said there were 24,000 mosques in the western region, adding that “basic facts show that there has never been so-called genocide, forced labour or religious oppression in Xinjiang.”
“The door to Xinjiang is always open. People from many countries who have visited Xinjiang have learned the facts and the truth on the ground. China also welcomes the High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit Xinjiang,” Wang said, referring to UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet, whose office has been negotiating terms of access to the country.
Activists and UN rights experts have said that at least one million Muslims are imprisoned in camps in the remote western region.
China denies abuses and says its camps provide vocational training which are needed to fight extremism.