China Faces Off With Critics of Muslim Detentions

Protesters against China’s mass detentions of Uighurs demonstrate during a United Nations human-rights review in Geneva on Tuesday.

By Josh Chin

Nov. 6, 2018 11:53 a.m. ET

BEIJING—China’s government delivered a defiant defense of its mass detentions of Muslims at a United Nations human-rights panel in Geneva on Tuesday that turned into a showdown with the U.S. and other critics of the Chinese policy.

With protesters against China marching outside, representatives from roughly a dozen countries, most of them Western, fired criticisms at the Chinese delegation about their country’s network of internment camps in the Xinjiang region as part of a broad review of China’s record by the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Presenting in alphabetical order, Australia set the tone, calling on China to “cease the arbitrary detention of Uighurs and other Muslim groups in Xinjiang.”

Mark Cassayre, with the U.S. Mission to the U.N. in Geneva, was last among the critics, demanding China shut down the detention centers and release all detainees.

China boldly defended its internment of what the U.N. says has been up to one million people, mostly Uighurs, saying it is effective in fighting terrorism and protects the majority in China.

Le Yucheng, the head of the Chinese delegation, reiterated a recent government explanation that the camps are vocational schools and said they were an innovative solution to protecting people and preventing the spread of extremism.

“This protects the human rights of the vast majority, while also saving these people,” Mr. Le said. “It’s another important contribution of China’s to the global counterterror field.”