China to be grilled over detainment of Uighurs at UN review, Latest World News - The New Paper

China to be grilled over detainment of Uighurs at UN review

This article is more than 12 months old

BEIJING: China will be grilled over its mass detainment of Uighur minorities during a United Nations human rights review tomorrow, with Washington leading demands for Beijing to come clean.

As many as one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are kept in extra-judicial detention in China's fractious far western Xinjiang autonomous region, according to estimates cited by a UN panel.

The centres where they are thought to be detained have come under growing scrutiny this year, with rights activists describing them as political re-education camps. They say members of China's Muslim minorities are held involuntarily for transgressions such as wearing long beards and face veils.

All UN member states must undergo a periodic review by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

China will present a report on its domestic human rights situation and changes made since its last report in 2013, while diplomats will have the opportunity to ask questions - some of which have already been submitted.

One question by the US is: "Can China clarify the basis for its apparent criminalisation of peaceful religious practices as justification to detain people in these political 're-education' camps in Xinjiang, as well as which officials are responsible for this policy?"

Washington also wants Beijing to provide "the number of people involuntarily held in all detention facilities in Xinjiang during the past five years".

The US and Germany have requested UN access to Xinjiang and Tibet to probe allegations of mass detention and restrictions on religious freedoms.

Beijing previously denied the existence of such camps, but now defends them as "vocational education and training centres" where happy students study Mandarin, brush up on job skills and pursue hobbies such as sports and folk dance.

Chinese officials say the facilities are part of efforts to combat terrorism, religious extremism and separatism in Xinjiang following unrest that left hundreds dead in recent years.

But an AFP investigation published in October showed that local authorities had bought gear for the centres, including police batons, electric cattle prods, handcuffs, pepper spray, stun guns and razor wire. - AFP