China forcing Uyghur Muslims into ‘re-education camps’, violation of rights, says UN
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China forcing Uyghur Muslims into ‘re-education camps’, violation of rights, says UN

UN human rights panel said that it had received many credible reports to back the claim that people from the Muslim Uyghur community were being sent to these camps in the name of fighting religious extremism.

world Updated: Aug 11, 2018 23:28 IST
Uighurs,china secret camps,xinjiang
China says that Xinjiang faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists who plot attacks and stir up tensions between the mostly Muslim Uighur minority.(REUTERS)

China has turned its northwestern province of Xinjiang into a “no-rights zone” and a “massive internment camp” for the Muslim Uyghur community, a United Nations meeting on human rights was told.

The issue of the treatment of Uyghurs was raised at the UN meeting by Gay McDougall, vice-chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, who said she was “deeply concerned” by reports from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) that the Uyghurs were being sent to re-education camps in the name of fighting religious extremism.

China is yet to officially respond to the allegations. According to reports, China’s lead representative to the committee, Yu Jianhua, said he would respond on Monday. “We have taken careful notes,” he said.

The province, China’s largest and where Uyghurs make up about 45 per cent of the population, is designated as an autonomous region, like Tibet.

Multiple news reports from the province and abroad have said that hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs have been packed off to camps to “re-educated” in the past several months.

In many cases, Uyghur families have been separated after family members, often males, were sent to the camps.

McDougall put on record her concerns after reading reports that China had “turned the [Xinjiang] Uyghur Autonomous Region into something that resembles a massive internment camp”.

Some Uyghurs were being “treated as enemies of the state based solely on their ethno-religious identity,” she said.

“We are deeply concerned at the many numerous and credible reports that we have received that in the name of combating religious extremism and maintaining social stability (China) has changed the Uyghur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internship camp that is shrouded in secrecy, a sort of ‘no rights zone,” McDougall was quoted by Reuters as saying at the start of a two-day meeting on China.

“All of these detainees have had their due-process rights violated. Most have never been charged with an offence, tried in a court of law or afforded an opportunity to challenge the illegality of their detention. Many just disappear. Their relatives never know what happened to them,” she said.

McDougall said at least two million were in the camps but did not back it up by mentioning the source.

According to the BBC, in April, Laura Stone, a senior diplomat in the US State Department, said tens of thousands of people had been detained in “re-education centres” amid a government crackdown.

China’s ministry of foreign affairs (MFA) spokesperson had responded by saying that “everyone can see that people of all ethnicities in Xinjiang live and work in peace and contentment and enjoy peaceful and progressing lives”.

The Chinese government has consistently blamed Islamic extremists for carrying out violent attacks targeting government offices and police stations in Xinjiang.

“Xinjiang might be sparsely populated, but Beijing has made tremendous strides to develop northwestern China and the results appear remarkable,” a state media report said last year.

“The regional GDP (gross domestic product) has enjoyed an average annual increase - 9.3 percent from 2012 to 2016; RMB752.9bn (US$114bn) - 2012, to RMB 965bn (US$140bn) – 2016,” it said.

First Published: Aug 11, 2018 10:21 IST