GENEVA—The top United Nations human rights official Michelle Bachelet said on Dec. 5 that her office is seeking access to China’s Xinjiang region to verify “worrying reports” of re-education camps holding Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.
The Chinese regime has used the excuse that Xinjiang faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists who plot attacks and stir up tensions with the ethnic Han Chinese majority to crack down on the local population in Xinjiang.
“We have been asking for direct access to the region to be able to check and verify the worrying reports we are receiving,” Bachelet told a news conference in Geneva.
Beijing has faced an outcry from activists, academics, foreign governments and U.N. rights experts over mass detentions and strict surveillance of the mostly Muslim Uyghur minority and other Muslim groups who call Xinjiang home.
In August, a United Nations human rights panel said it had received many credible reports that a million or more Uyghurs in China are being held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy.”
China says it is not enforcing arbitrary detention and political re-education, but rather some citizens guilty of minor offenses were being sent to vocational centers to provide employment opportunities.
However, a report published on Nov. 5 by U.S. think-tank the Jamestown Foundation found that despite the purported large “vocational training” campaign, employment outcomes had not markedly improved, according to Xinjiang’s own official employment figures.
“Xinjiang’s budget figures do not reflect increased spending on vocational education … Rather, they reflect patterns of spending consistent with the construction and operation of highly secure political re-education camps designed to imprison hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs with minimal due process,” said the report’s author, Adrian Zenz, an anthropologist at the European School of Culture and Theology in Germany.
Uyghurs and other Muslims held in concentration camp-like facilities, known as “re-education” centers, are forbidden from using Islamic greetings, must learn Mandarin Chinese, and sing propaganda songs, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.
Uyghur children of parents who are detainees in “political re-education” camps or living in exile are being placed into state-run “orphanages” in Xinjiang by local authorities, a traumatized father has told The Epoch Times.
The news follows orders by Chen Quango, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) Secretary in Xinjiang, to relocate all “orphans” in Xinjiang to state facilities by 2020.
Western countries including Canada, France, Germany, and the United States have urged China to shut down camps in Xinjiang.
By Stephanie Nebehay. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.