GENEVA —Western countries including France, Germany and the United States called on China on Nov. 6 to close down detention camps that activists say hold 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslims.
At a debate at the Geneva forum—which reports on alleged violations in each U.N. member state every five years and reviewed China’s record on Tuesday— China rejected Western criticism of suspected mass detention and heavy surveillance of Uyghurs in the western region of Xinjiang.
The ruling Communist Party has used the excuse of potential Islamic threats, “extremism” and ethnic riots to crack down on the local population in Xinjiang.
Chinese authorities have denied that the internment camps exist but say petty criminals are sent to “employment training centers.” On Oct. 9, the Xinjiang government revised legislation to officially permit the use of “education and training centers” to reform “people influenced by extremism.”
In October, The Epoch Times reported that Uyghurs are allegedly being tortured, raped, and killed in Xinjiang’s camps.
One after another, however, Western countries spoke out against what they described as a deterioration in China’s human rights since the last review, especially over its treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang.
“We are alarmed by the government of China’s worsening crackdown on Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” U.S. charge d’affaires Mark Cassayre said.
The United States urged China to “abolish all forms of arbitrary detention, including internment camps in Xinjiang, and immediately release the hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of individuals detained in these camps,” he said.
China should release activists including Wang Quanzhang, Ilham Tohti and Huang Qi, Cassayre said.
Beijing should “halt massive imprisonment” and “guarantee freedom of religion and belief, including in Tibet and Xinjiang,” French Ambassador Francois Rivasseau said.
A U.N. panel of human rights experts said on Aug. 10 it had received many credible reports that 1 million ethnic Uyghurs in China were being held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy.”
Up to 1,000 Tibetan and Uyghur protesters from around Europe protested outside the U.N. headquarters in Geneva during Tuesday’s debate. They carried signs saying “STOP China ethnic cleansing of Uighurs” and “Tibet dying, China lies.”
From one million to 3 million Muslims are in “concentration camps” in Xinjiang, Dolkun Isa, president of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, told Reuters Television.
“So that is why we are here gathering to protest against the Chinese government brutal crackdown on east Turkestan, on the Uyghur people, the Tibetan people, and also we ask the United Nations (to) take concrete actions and hold responsible, hold accountable the Chinese government.”
By Stephanie Nebehay. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.