Uyghur activist groups are welcoming a call by the U.S. government for the U.N. Human Rights Council to debate rights abuses and crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region.
The U.S. on Monday filed a proposal known as a “draft decision,” demanding that the Geneva-based council organize the discussion at next week’s session in response to a damning report issued on Aug. 31 by former U.N. rights chief Michelle Bachelet warning of possible crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.
Her report, released on the final day of her four-year term, said “serious human rights violations” had been committed in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in the context of the Chinese government’s application of counter-extremism strategies.
The draft decision was endorsed by the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Finland Iceland and Norway, Reuters reported Monday, citing diplomats as the source.
The 47-member council is divided over allegations of China’s repression of Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in Xinjiang, despite reams of credible reports on abuses in the region, including arbitrary detentions, torture and forced sterilization.
It is believed that as many as 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslims have been held in China’s vast network of internment camps purportedly set up to prevent “religious extremism” and “terrorism” in the region.
Beijing has insisted that the camps were vocational training facilities that are now closed. It has vowed to fight any U.N. action on human rights abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang cited in Bachelet’s report.
“Certain Western countries use the Human Rights Council as a tool for political manipulation,” Wang Wenbin, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Tuesday at a regular press conference in Beijing, when asked about the proposal.
“They blatantly apply double standards and have gone so far as to name and shame some developing countries and openly pressure them,” he said. “This has poisoned the atmosphere and led to aggravated confrontation at the Human Rights Council, which is detrimental to international human rights cooperation. The international community firmly rejects such practices.”
A group of 66 Uyghur organizations from 20 countries on Monday urged governments to support passage of the draft decision.
“The international community must remember its obligation to end atrocity crimes like genocide and crimes against humanity,” said Dolkun Isa, president of the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress, in a statement. “Justice must be served.”
“Governments must seize this opportunity to finally respond to the abuses,” said Omer Kanat, executive director of the Washington, D.C-based Uyghur Human Rights Project. “The U.N. now has a chance to give hope to a suffering people.”
A vote on the proposal will be held next week in Geneva.