New Uighur abuse claims spark call for UN investigation
New claims of abuse against the minority Muslim Uighurs in China that emerged Wednesday have sparked calls from Australia and the U.S. for a United Nations investigation.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne requested that China provide unlimited access to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in the Xinjiang province, where China is accused of keeping Uighurs in reeducation camps.
Her call for UN action comes after the BBC reported on Wednesday that rape and torture was rampant in these camps, citing interviews with former detainees and a guard.
“These latest reports of systematic torture and abuse of women are deeply disturbing and raise serious questions regarding the treatment of Uighurs and other religious and ethnic minorities in Xinjiang,” Payne said in a statement obtained by Bloomberg News.
The UN has estimated that between tens of thousands to “upwards of 1 million” Uighurs in China have been taken to these camps in the Xinjiang Province.
A State Department spokesperson told The Hill that the U.S. is “deeply disturbed” by the BBC’s report and said the human rights violations “shock the conscience and must be met with serious consequences.”
“People’s Republic of China (PRC) authorities should allow for immediate and independent investigations by international observers into these shocking allegations, in addition to the other atrocities being committed in Xinjiang,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“We will speak out consistently and jointly with allies and partners to condemn these atrocities, and we will consider all appropriate tools to promote accountability for those responsible and deter future abuses,” the statement continued.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin responded to the criticism by saying the country already invited Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, to go to the province, noting, “the two sides have been in contact with each other.”
“We welcome the foreign nationals with an unbiased view to visit Xinjiang to see with their own eyes a real Xinjiang,” he said, according to Bloomberg News. “In the meantime, we oppose the interference in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of human rights and oppose the presumption of guilt or any investigation based on it.”
In one of his final actions as Secretary of State under President Trump, Mike Pompeo declared the alleged abuse of Uighurs as a genocide.
President Biden’s secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has said he agrees with that characterization, but the chosen ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the U.S. is reviewing whether that label will stand in the Biden administration.
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