Australia on Thursday called on the United Nations to investigate reports revealing that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has instituted a system in which Uyghur and other ethnic minority women in the nation’s concentration camps are “systematically raped, sexually abused, and tortured.”
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported on February 3 that “several former detainees and a guard” at the state-run Xinjiang concentration camps told the BBC “they experienced or saw evidence of an organized system of mass rape, sexual abuse and torture.”
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne responded to the claims in a statement issued by her spokesperson on February 4.
“These latest reports of systematic torture and abuse of women are deeply disturbing and raise serious questions regarding the treatment of Uyghurs and other religious and ethnic minorities in Xinjiang,” the statement read.
“We consider transparency to be of utmost importance and continue to urge China to allow international observers, including the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to be given immediate, meaningful, and unfettered access to Xinjiang at the earliest opportunity,” the spokesperson added.
China’s foreign ministry reacted to the statement by its Australian counterpart hours later at a regularly scheduled press briefing.
“China has extended invitation long ago to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and we are in communication on this with the UNHCHR. We welcome fair-minded foreigners to visit Xinjiang and learn the real situation there,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on February 4.
“At the same time, we are firmly opposed to interference in China’s internal affairs by any country or individual under the pretext of human rights, and to the hyping-up of the so-called ‘investigation’ in Xinjiang by someone who is already convinced that we are guilty,” Wang added.
Later at the press conference, Wang refuted the BBC’s February 3 report, stating, “There is no so-called ‘systemic sexual abuse and mistreatment against women,’” in China.
Human rights organizations accuse regional Chinese government officials of detaining 1 to 3 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang detention camps since at least 2017. Rights groups cite as evidence satellite images appearing to depict recently built or expanded detention facilities, eyewitness testimony, and leaked CCP documents referring to the facilities, which the CCP describes as “re-education” or vocational camps.
The camps’ survivors have testified that they endured sexual abuse and rape, forced abortions and sterilization, torture, slave labor, and Communist Party indoctrination while detained in the facilities. Many of these allegations are repeated or elaborated upon in the BBC’s February 3 report.