Add to myFT Beijing hits back at Uighur internment camp critics

Emily Feng in Zhuhai
NOVEMBER 6, 2018

China has dismissed multinational recommendations to end its mass detention of Muslim ethnic groups during a UN review of its human rights record, calling the recommendations devoid of fact.

Since early 2017, China has stepped up its crackdown on the Uighurs, a Turkic ethnic group native to the western region of Xinjiang that has long pushed back against Chinese Communist party rule. A UN panel in August estimated that 1m to 3m of the region’s 11m Uighurs were being held in some form of detention.

A split emerged among UN member countries on whether to address the detentions during China’s universal periodic review (UPR), held once every four years, in front of UN Human Rights Council member states this week.

Countries including Germany and Finland have called for greater transparency on the treatment of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, while traditional Chinese allies such as Zambia instead spoke about China’s progress in eliminating poverty in rural areas and strengthening social insurance measures.

“We are deeply concerned by credible reports of the detention and surveillance of Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang,” said a representative for Canada, adding that it was “concerned about the broader deterioration of human rights in China since the last UPR”.

China was quick to hit back, calling allegations about detentions in Xinjiang “not based on fact”.


“Some countries disregard achievements made by China on human rights and demean China by saying that the human rights situation has worsened. These allegations do not tally with facts and we do not accept them,” said the Chinese delegation.

Neither Pakistan and Kazakhstan raised the issue of detentions within Xinjiang, despite having struggled to address the detention of hundreds of their citizens and family members caught up in China’s security crackdown. Both countries are big recipients of China-funded infrastructure projects and Chinese trade.

China has justified the internment of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang by recasting detention centres as educational institutions where detainees are free to exercise and dance.

However, spending on Xinjiang security-related construction more than doubled last year by Rmb20bn ($2.9bn) even as budgets for vocational education decreased, according to Adrian Zenz, a Chinese security expert, in a report released this week by the Jamestown Foundation, a research group.

“China has followed a path towards human rights suitable to China’s conditions. We have sought to realise the universality of human rights in the context of China’s particularities,” Le Yucheng, China’s vice-minister for foreign affairs, told the UPR assembly. “We have explored and realised a human development path that is distinctly Chinese.”